With a cast composed entirely of dwarfs, Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) tells a tale of asylum inmates taking over the asylum. The institution's governor is holed up in his own home with a rebel hostage to keep him company. As the inmates' wrangling for the release of their fellow captive comes to naught, all symbols of ordered society are mocked and brought to a shambles. Typewriters are smashed, flowers are set on fire, a dinner ceremony ends with the slapstick smashing of plates, a monkey is tied to a crucifix and paraded in solemn observance, chickens resort to cannibalism. All vestige of order is disrupted in Herzog's blackly humorous, fatalistic parable, leaving us with nothing but the mad, strident cackling of a dwarf. It's not just that the dwarfs are grotesques, but that we all are grotesques in this eerie little world, and it's only through Herzog's eye that we see this clearly. This deceptively simple story builds with amazing power from beginning to end, brutal and compassionate, uncompromising and mad. --Jim Gay
the back cover of the dvd states that the film is "a..brutal allegory about the consequences of imprisonment and rebellion" and "The inmates have taken over an institution in a bleak and savage world in which everyone's a dwarf".
okay, a few things:
1) if everyone in this world (and not just the institution) is a dwarf, why is the bed that a dwarf spends 10 minutes trying to climb onto normal size? Why are the cars and door handles also scaled to non-dwarf sizes?
2) I hate these film school 101 interpretations (car and typewriter represent "technology" and "society", but the chicken torture, cruelty towards the blind midgets, and the rooster fight are given equal time on screen and surely don't fit this theory) that interpret obvious metaphors in a cliche way, while ignoring symbols that don't fit the main theory or are otherwise inconvenient to explain.
3) Trying to explain "disturbing" images by saying "it's an allegory" is lazy, especially if you come up with something as facile as "we all are grotesques in this eerie little world".
4) If your film truly is an "allegory" and no one can see the "allegory" is without the help of a critic or director commentary, your film has likely failed.
5) drawn out shots of ugliness/brutality in a film with no framework or a plot that drags do not represent "the banality and cruelty of existence", they just piss me off. For further examples, see Gummo, perhaps the worst independent film I've ever seen.
The fact that Crispin Glover likes and was influenced by this film only cements my suspicion that this movie is one of those "I don't like it or understand why anyone would like it, therefore it must be really deep" films.