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An attempt at negotiating with the rabble rousers.


pageantry, as much a party as a revolution, the film becomes—one is tempted to say “despite Herzog” rather than due to any premeditation on his part—an almost subconscious commentary on the political trends of its time, as critical of the protesters as it is of the establishment, as well as a face-pulling caricature of Germany’s own politi- cal past. At the same time, it works as a kind of metaphor of genre cinema, its storyline a funhouse mirror distortion of something like Don Siegel’s RIOT IN CELL BLOCK 11 (1954). As Herzog states in his audio commentary (shared with actor Crispin Glover and moderator Norman Hill), his intention was to make a film in which the dwarves and midg- ets were seen as “normal,” while the world they inhabit was shown as oversized and inconvenient: “Everything surrounding them is monstrous.” In just this way, the film serves as a diminishment of Siegel’s genre film and others made from the same mold, but which is nevertheless somehow ennobled by its down-sizing from a B-picture—not to a C- or Z-picture, but to the true opposite of A-picture, the Art- or Anti-picture.


The revolutionaries not only revolt against the institution, but all capital-I Institutions, including that of cinematic tradition. The story is not without a beginning, middle and end, but Herzog’s approach to filming the situation is to explore how quickly absolute freedom becomes anarchy, and how rap- idly anarchy becomes destructive to the anarchists themselves. This freedom is applied not only to the revolt but to the revolutionary act of making the film itself, which documents how purposeful revolution deteriorates into unpurposeful revelry and, eventu- ally, entropic repetitions with ever-diminishing re- turns. The demonstration never achieves its desired end, but neither side ultimately loses or wins; in- stead, their mutual deadlock of insanity escalates to the point of both sides becoming isolated within self-absorbed abstractions. The manager flees the institution and runs down the road until he encoun- ters a tree with bare, pointing branches, which he promptly challenges to a pointing contest. Mean- while, the dwarves’ party escalates until its ends as all parties do, with one man left standing—Helmut Döring as the unforgettable Hombre—in this case


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