Even Dwarfs Started Small

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Even Dwarfs Started Small
Even Dwarfs Started Small.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWerner Herzog
Written byWerner Herzog
Produced byWerner Herzog
StarringHelmut Döring
CinematographyThomas Mauch
Edited byBeate Mainka-Jellinghaus
Music byFlorian Fricke
Distributed byWerner Herzog Filmproduktion
Release date
  • 15 May 1970 (1970-05-15) (Cannes)
  • 2 February 1971 (1971-02-02) (West Germany)
  • 15 December 1971 (1971-12-15) (US)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryWest Germany

Even Dwarfs Started Small (German: Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen) is a 1970 West German comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by Werner Herzog.


Dwarfs confined in an institution on a remote island rebel against the guards and director, also dwarfs, in a display of mayhem. They gleefully break windows and dishes, abandon a running truck to drive itself in circles, engineer food fights and cock fights, set fire to pots of flowers, kill a large pig, torment some blind dwarfs, and perform a mock crucifixion of a monkey.



The film was shot on the Canary Islands, at Lanzarote. The film was produced during the same time period as Herzog's Fata Morgana and The Flying Doctors of East Africa, and there are visual and thematic connections between the three works. Notably, the goggles worn by the blind dwarfs are the same style as the goggles which several people wear in Fata Morgana.[1]

During the filming, Herzog gave some strange direction to elicit particular performances from the actors. In directing one dwarf who continually struggled not to laugh, Herzog repeatedly told the actor that he must not laugh, but then made funny faces at him as soon as he started filming.[1]

While filming the scene where a van drives in circles with no one at the wheel, one of the actors was run over, but immediately stood up uninjured. During the flower burning scene, the same actor caught fire and Werner Herzog raced over and beat the fire out. The actor only had minor injuries from the fire. After these two accidents, Herzog promised the actors that if they made it through the rest of filming without any more injuries he would jump into a cactus patch and allow the actors to film him doing so. The film was finished without any further injuries and the director made good his promise and dived into the cacti. Herzog has said, "Getting out was a lot more difficult than jumping in."[2] The vehicle-in-circles scene was inspired by an incident that occurred when Herzog worked as a steward at the Munich Oktoberfest as a young man. Part of his duty was ensuring that drunk patrons did not attempt to drive their cars home, so when a drunk man insisted that he was capable of driving, Herzog got into his car with him, placed the steering wheel on full lock, then got out of his car. The man passed out and the car continued to drive in a circle until it ran out of petrol.


Even Dwarfs Started Small has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Werner Herzog, DVD audio commentary for Even Dwarfs Started Small
  2. ^ Herzog, Werner (2001). Herzog on Herzog. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-20708-1.
  3. ^ "Even Dwarfs Started Small". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-10-11.

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