Plot: At an isolated psychiatric compound in a remote stretch of countryside, a division among the residents and staff have started to boil over. A patient has been tied to a chair as punishment, an act seen as cruel by his fellow inmates, especially for how minor his incident was. The other patients rise up to support the punished man, demanding he be freed, and when their complaints are ignored, all hell breaks loose and the inmates go off the deep end. A siege of sorts soon unfolds, as the patients begin to take over the asylum and engage in all kinds of dangerous, odd, and even inexplicable behavior, all to make sure their friend is freed. But will the institution’s officials listen to reason or will the situation spiral even more out of control?
Entertainment Value: Although Werner Herzog has dismissed all the claims about this movie’s allegorical nature, Even Dwarfs Started Small has inspired countless theories about what all the chaos might mean. The narrative starts off simple enough, with a rebellion against the authorities involved, but soon descends into madness and all kinds of craziness ensues. The movie seems ripe for analysis, as you can read so much into the potential symbolism involved, but if you try to dissect each scene and find some hidden depth, you’re likely on a fool’s errand. Sometimes chaos is just chaos and Herzog himself confirms that is often the case here. If you’re the analytical type or not, there is a lot to take in with Even Dwarfs Started Small and even by Herzog’s standard of cinema, it is a one of a kind ride. The loose narrative and at times, total lack of narrative is bound to confound some, while there are also plenty of elements that could offend, from chicken abuse to dead animals. And of course, there are those who consider the use of all little people to be a kind of exploitation, another claim that Herzog is vehemently opposed to, as that isn’t how he sees the movie. Regardless of whether it has some deep purpose or is just mania for the sake of mania, Even Dwarfs Started Small is a unique and memorable experience that fans of offbeat cinema should appreciate.
No nakedness. The movie has some odd vibes to be sure, but steers clear of sexual content, at least in the direct sense. No blood, but there is a good deal of violence involved at various levels. Herzog’s vendetta against chickens is on full showcase, with some of the birds mistreated and actual chicken on chicken violence. This includes some hard to watch scenes, such as when a group of chickens prey on a hobbled bird, while other animal related scenes can be tough to watch as well. The humans also rough each other up a little and while the violence isn’t graphic in nature, the unsettling vibe of the movie makes it seem quite mean spirited. The dialogue is sparse, but odd in most cases and one of the actors has an insane laugh, which is likely the most memorable part of the movie, audio wise. On the craziness front, we have a consistent flow of wackiness and things that seem to be random or total nonsense, but somehow resonate as perhaps more than they first seem. I love the visual of the truck running in circles while tethered with no driver, it is such an odd, haunting presence. The colorful, unstable characters, bizarre events that play out during the rebellion, and a general atmosphere that is unnerving in most scenes all ensure this one is suitably off the rails.
Overall Insanity: 8/10