Even Dwarfs Started Small
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96 min.
Release Date
Even Dwarfs Started Small Poster

Even Dwarfs Started Small is a confounding and vivid picture, even by Werner Herzog’s standards. The Bavarian-born director often traffics in sublime assessments of Nature, complex portraits of humanity’s obsessiveness, and ponderings about everything from the death penalty to the internet. In his 1970 picture, his second full-length feature, Herzog explores an isolated asylum on Lanzarote, a volcanic island in the Canary Islands, that houses dwarfs. The institution’s faculty and even passers-by consist of dwarfs as well. Most of the film’s runtime depicts the inmates revolting, chaotically tearing the place down, setting fire to plants, fighting amongst themselves, and harming nearby animals. Is this Herzog’s anthropological study of a marginalized group of people? Is it a metaphor, and if so, for what? Herzog never comes out and explains what it all means; there’s never a character who articulates the lesson the film hopes to impart, and there are no visual clues to its deeper meaning. In the end, the viewer is left to negotiate what the filmmaker intended by this meandering display of bedlam, along with persistent questions about how Herzog captured this footage and how he views dwarfism.

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