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Germany 1970
Directed by
Werner Herzog
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Even Dwarfs Started Small

Closer to Warhol/Morissey absurdism than Buñuelian satire, Even Dwarfs Started Small is an offbeat parody of society (represented by a penal institution occupied by the little people) that veers into Todd Browning territory and is probably a little too voyeuristic to be effective. It is however, a film that very much inspires personal response and in its day caused quite a furore in different quarters ranging from charges that it exploited the height-challenged to accusations that it was belittling counter-culture revolution.

Herzog has spoken of wanting the film to be like “a continuous nightmare” and in that respect he has successfully realized his goal, although perhaps not exactly in the way he meant. The main problem with the film is that it is essentially a single-note song. All that happens is that the rebellious midget population grow gradually out-of -hand, initially simply harassing their keepers but eventually turning more and more destructive. As such this hardly serves as a microcosm (excuse the pun) of revolution in general and unlike the work of David Lynch, with which it bears comparison, limits the film thematically and if such an expectation is relevant, dramatically. Events are enacted to the accompaniment of grating laughter from two of the little guys, one who sits in Director’s office chuckling his head off for no apparent reason and the other, played by Helmut Döring, who stands rocking back and forth, repeating phrases spoken by other inmates and cackling maniacally.

Even Dwarfs Started Small is more grotesque than bizarre and for that reason not a film many will want to watch for long. For collectors of oddities, however, it’s a must-see.

DVD Extras: A useful commentary track with Herzog, actor Crispin Glover and facilitator Norman Hill. Available as part of an excellent 6 disc Werner Herzog release by Umbrella that also includes Signs Of Life; Heart of Glass; The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Stroszek and Where The Green Ants Dream.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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