Heart of Glass Poster

Heart of Glass (1976)

Drama     
IMDB Rayting:   7.1/10
Country: West Germany
Language: German

The foreman of a small village glassworks dies without revealing the secret to the famous "Ruby Glass".

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MacAindrais 5 November 2008

Heart of Glass (1976)

Werner Herzog may well be one of my most cherished humans on the planet. If he were giving a lecture on the idiosyncrasies of his films, I would like to be there. If he was sitting on a sidewalk eating chips, I too would like to be there. He is without a doubt one of the cinema's most fascinating minds ever. He is, in my opinion, the King of the New German Wave of the 70s. And he still makes great and exciting movies! One of his most enchanting moments in his long and ambitious career (really, was there any man more ambitious in films than he?), is Heart of Glass, a totally bizarre portrait of a town gone mad. Although the picture for all intensive purposes defies the boundaries of any genre, it has been described as an absurdest drama-dy. That's a pretty suiting classification. If Heart of Glass can be described in one word, it would have to be absurd.

The film's protagonist Hias, a prophet of sorts. He can see the future, and seems usually to be depressed with the burden. His village has just lost the proprietor of its livelihood. The foreman of their red Ruby Glass factory, the only man who knew the secret of how to make it, died without ever getting the chance to pass it on. The town now searches in vain for the secret. Without it they grow depressed and begin losing their sanity, particularly the man who owns the glass works factory in his bid to discover the secrets.

That's really all that I can disclose about the film. Herzog's film is one based on style and atmosphere, getting at something underneath its story. He famously hypnotized the entire cast for each scene, save for the actor playing Hias and the professional glassblowers. Much of the dialogue was then improvised in a hypnotic state by the actors. Herzog described how an uneducated man in the cast was hypnotized, and then told to read a poem on the wall. The man replied he couldn't' see it without its glasses. Herzog told him to just move forward and he would see it. He then reportedly read off a stunning poem - a work of his own mind, since no poem ever existed on that wall. The hypnosis not only gives the actor's improvisations an peculiarity, but also their manner of delivery. It's bizarre, but totally encompassing.

It's moments of comedy are bizarre but joyful. Two men argue about who will die first, then the townspeople find them and argue which one is still alive. Later, the live man takes the dead man to the pub for a dance as a hurdy gurdy man plays.

The film starts with a long shot of Hias sitting in the mountain field watching cows in the fog. Herzog then employs footage he shot of clouds in the mountains, taken over the course of days. One shot in particular appears as though a wave of clouds is invading the hills. It's an absolutely breathtaking shot, and one that I've never forgotten, and likely never will.

Herzog once famously suggested that he directs landscapes more so than actors. In Heart of Glass he gives ample evidence to his claim. He takes joy in cutting away to seemingly completely unrelated events: a mountain waterfall, close up, as Hias narrates (it is claimed that this shot will have a hypnotic effect, especially if you speak German and do not have to read the subtitles); smoking springs and ancient trees at Yosemite; and a finale that involves a 500 year old monastery on a steep rocky Island off Ireland (Skellig Islands, fascinating place). The imagery and moody accomplishments of Heart of Glass are difficult to describ

tho-3 5 October 1999

Unlike Herzog's other movies, with their super-realistic substrate on which he paints our miserable human condition, Heart of Glass is an allegory, a fable told to peasants as a cautionary tale: the human heart is precious... and the peasants are us, and we violate that warning everyday, in a thousand little ways, with our stupidity and our pettiness...

Is the movie slow? perhaps... Do I still remember scenes vividly from the movie as if I saw it yesterday, though it's been more than 20 years? oh yes... this movie haunts me, unlike any other movie I've ever seen

fred-83 26 July 2001

This is a truly mesmerizing movie experience. It manages to balance that fine line between stylization and total realism, not unlike Kubrick, though he never ventured this far. The cinematography is almost like in a documentary, but the performances and narrative is totally abstract and stylized. In my opinion, it succesfully transports the viewer into another reality. It is a film that invites you to meditate and free-associate at your own will. The narrative, linear but disjointed, suggests a breakdown of time itself, a consequence of the lost secret of the glass. The long sections with hypnotizing music and magical landscapes balances well with the rest of the story, and there are scenes were dialogue, visuals and music, creates an incredibly dense atmosphere. There is also a welcome sense of humor which prevents it from becoming overly pretentious. I found it to be a very inspiring and unique movie, and I recommend it to anyone tired of the ordinary.

mstomaso 19 December 2008

Each of Herzog's films is an experiment in one way or another. Heart of Glass is one of the most overtly experimental of the lot. Like almost all of Herzog's films, Heart of Glass makes the most of spectacular landscapes and visual context - every scene is, in its own way, a beautiful still-life. However, in Heart of Glass, the effect of the visual context is compounded by the fact that almost every member of the cast - throughout the entire film - is in a state of hypnosis. Predictably, the acting is, to say the least, avant-garde. Nevertheless, characterization is strong, and more importantly, this bizarre, somewhat jarring method of execution creates the film's time and place just as much as the gorgeous landscape shots.

Heart of Glass takes place in 19th century Bavaria. The Director's comments (always worth hearing after viewing a Herzog film) indicate that Herzog grew up in a place very much like this. This doesn't stop Herzog from turning his keen analysis of the human condition and modal personalities to attack the central problems of life in this time and place. The story involves a small town in crisis. The one person who holds the secret that is the key to the town's prosperity has taken that secret to his grave, and the master of the glass factory in which he worked is losing his mind looking for a solution. Meanwhile, one of the film's more sympathetic character's, a deeply insightful prophet/lunatic shepherd (with no sheep), Hias, predicts an even greater crisis.

Herzog's most consistent theme - his view of human nature - is powerfully illustrated in Heart of Glass. As the great director has often done, Herzog universalizes his view by giving us an essentially alien, dream-like setting and atmosphere. The effect of the cast's hypnotic state is even more jarring than the sheer intensity of Klaus Kinski's performances in many of Herzog's films from this period, and Heart of Glass is as avant-garde as some of his later efforts (such as The Great Blue Yonder). In other words, the average cinema-goer will have a difficult time with this one.

Recommended for Herzog, avant-garde and art-film fans. Not recommended for anybody else.

loganx-2 18 June 2008

Hypnotized actors, in this story of how something as fragile as glass can bring on the apocalypse for a small German community. There's a character who predicts the future, and narrates in some of Herzog's most poetic dialog yet. The scenes at the end overlooking the cliffs above the Atlantic and their dream of "worlds to come", keep this from being your usual end of all things story. For Herzog there aren't ends, just junctures where one thing dies and another begins. Cycles in history (reflected in the mysterious prophets discussion of greater apocalypses to come in the future world wars 1 and 2).

The man who can see the future (and who is of course blamed for all the towns ills), at one point wishes he was out of his cell, and in the next scene he's walking in the woods talking to himself, giving the film a strange tinge of magic realism(though realism and this film don't exactly mix). Strange, difficult, but unforgettable, and a must for Herzog fans. (also it's where the Blondie song comes from)

daPeda 5 June 1999

Well, i completely disagree with the guy from NYU. I've seen this film seven times between 1978 and 1991 (although in its original german version) and found it absolutely hypnotizing. This film simply is a piece of art and cannot be measured with hollywood standards. Besides 2001: a space oddyssey and Chabrols 1969 masterpiece 'The beast must die' this is my altime favourite.

batzi8m1 3 November 1999

At a Q&A after an appearance at a week long run of his films in SF, Herzog was asked whether, since all his characters seem to be destroyed in the process of pursuing their dreams, he felt that all human striving to realize our dreams was in vain. "If you and I were old friends sitting over beers, you might get me to talk about that..." he responded. So I asked him if the the arabesque at the end of Heart of Glass held a clue. He responded by repeating that true story of fishermen who left for a rock on the horizon. This movie is a dream about people who allow their dreams to be controlled by the vagaries of the society and economy of the moment, because when that is gone, and they have no personal dream, they are truly lost. Warning: All of Herzog's films tend to be poetic allegories and as translucent as the clouds rolling through the Alps in slow motion to the dream music of Popol Vu (AKA Florian Fricke, who does Herzog's soundtracks and tantric instrumentals.)

An yes, this movie is more obtuse, dream like and surreal than even his usual stuff. So if you want Sound of Music Alpine scenes, or real life MTV, you will hate this film. But if you've ever dreamed in color, you might enjoy it.

DhavalVyas 13 March 2006

'Heart of Glass' was quite the daring experiment from the extraordinary German filmmaker Werner Herzog. He hypnotized all the actors except one man; a mystic who is trying to save a village from destroying itself. The scenery is stunning and so is the music. The yodeling at the begging of the film is hair-raising and unforgettable. Other than that, 'Heart of Glass' does not make any sense, especially the last scene. The final scene has nothing to do with the main story. The final scene has nothing to do with anything in general. Also, the hypnotized actors look goofy and silly most of the time rather than being in a trance-like state. It is a good thing when artists try to experiment like this, but in this case, I would consider the experiment a failure. Watch some other Herzog films, especially the ones with Klaus Kinski.

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