Against the Image: Herzog and the Troubling Politics of the Screen Animal


Late in 1968, while students in the European capitals were still dreaming of revolution, another version of it was being enacted several thousand miles away. The instigator was West German filmmaker Werner Herzog, directing his second full-length feature on the island of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands. Entitled Even Dwarfs Started Small, the film describes the discontent brewing among a community of dwarves in an institution on the island, and the insurrection they launch against their keepers. The revolt is by turns, farcical, incompetent and destructive – setting fire to various objects, smashing windows and crockery, and killing a pig. In the grotesque climax to the film, a monkey is tied to a cross and symbolically “crucified,” then paraded about in a nightmarish caricature of a victory march.

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