Heart of Glass (1976)
A small town becomes crippled by the demise of its prized industry, the production of an intoxicatingly sublime ruby-colored glass. The townspeople have become seduced by its power, and the lust for its secrets ends in madness and murder.
The story was adapted by Werner Herzog, but based closely on the second chapter of Herbert Achternbusch’s novel The Hour of Death. Achternbusch’s story was originally based on a Bavarian folktale, and the film was shot mostly in Bavaria, not far from where Herzog grew up. Additionally, a handful of other locations such as Yellowstone National Park and the Skellig Islands, just off the coast of Ireland, render the cinematography of Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein as striking as it is moving. The visions compliment the slower, more methodical pace of the film along with music by Popul Vuh.
There is no question Heart of Glass is a demanding film for the viewer. Herzog utilizes a hyper-stylized form of acting that has quite a jarring effect. This effect has a purpose, however, drawing attention to something that otherwise, might go overlooked. The director who once dragged a ship over a mountain, with little more than ropes and pulleys and the faith he inspired among local jungle natives, is certainly no stranger to tempting the impossible. He is a magician that not only adamantly believes in his own illusions, he lives and embodies them.
To create this peculiar study in acting, all of the actors were hypnotized during each shooting and much of the dialogue was improvised. All, that is, except Hias the seer, the protagonist of the film. Herzog said he was seeking a deeper sense of cohesion among the actors, beyond the visible, or what the viewer thinks he/she sees. Herzog attempts to share his own experiences every time he creates a film.
The story itself can be viewed as self-reflexive, a critique of the film industry itself and of ideological reductionism. The fundamental problem of seeing a film as a specimen of ruby glass becomes evident where Herzog has broken down the conventions of the established medium, signifying that the importance of a work of art lies elsewhere, not merely in its commodity value.
- Story B
- Acting C-
- Visuals B+
- Originality/Innovation A-
- Enjoyability B
- Overall B-
- DVD Extras A-