Theses on AUCH ZWERGE HABEN KLEIN ANGEFANGEN (1969), a film directed by Werner Herzog
1.) No film is more subversive, more revolutionary.
2.) A film that goes wild, a world without a head. Midgets run amuck, perform an insurrection, razing buildings and trees to the ground. A Lilliputian assault: the dwarves take revenge on the tall people who once dominated them.
3.) Not so much a film about violence as a cinematic act of violence against society.
4.) A paedophobic nightmare: The children of the world revolt against the world of adults.
5.) Reason’s nightmare. Typewriters are smashed, telephone lines ripped down, flowers set ablaze. The revolt of the dwarfs is a symbolic one: everything that is pure, everything that is sacred, everything that is dignified is brought down into the mud. Absolute de-rationalization, de-intellectualization, de-idealization. A camel—the symbol of piety, nobility, and grace—is repeatedly forced to kneel. A dwarf’s psychotic laughter fills our ears. The revolt against reason. Social anarchy. The smashing of plates, the throwing of food. The end of all propriety. The absence of limits.
6.) The viewer loses all sense of perspective, proportionality, and distance. Spectators are forced to identify with the dwarfs. It is the world that has lost its balance; the dwarfs are normal.
7.) And yet the dwarfs are nonetheless grotesque. The dwarfs who massacre the pig are completely unsympathetic. Unsympathetic, and yet we are forced to identify with them. A reconceptualization of what it means to be human.
8.) A corruption of the sacred, a besmirching of all that is holy. Ridiculing all that is pious. The inversion of all relations. The crucifixion of a monkey. One chicken cannibalizes another. A dead sow is fed upon by her piglets.
9.) Meaninglessness, absolute infantilism, irrationality, chaos. But like the student rioters of May 1968, are the dwarfs searching for a new master? One must take into account where the revolt takes place: an educational institution that resembles a penal colony. Public institutions demand their own infringement, their own violation.
10.) A remake of Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932). We lock away the freaks, rejects, mutants of the world; they are the strangers, the foreigners, “the Others.” But in this film, we the spectators have no sense of what we would usually consider “the norm.” Are we not like the dwarves? Only a few steps away from being freaks ourselves. “We will make her one of us, one of us, one of us…” The nightmare of the normal people.
11.) In a profound sense, the film is anti-humanist; the human animal appears as absolutely grotesque. The viewer loses his bearings: “Am I large? Are they truly small?” The world moves out of whack.
12.) The subversion of logos, narrative, language.
13.) Midget sexuality. The dwarfs lust after tall women.
14.) A real live homunculus gangbang, smashing a century of Hollywood cinema to pieces.
Dr. Joseph Suglia