Heart of Glass/Herz aus Glas (1976)

Heart of Glass (1976)The Werner Herzog season on Film4 continues with Heart of Glass/Herz aus Glas (1976) which began with a fascinating fact about the film that would otherwise leave an audience boggled by the performances by the cast who were in fact hypnotised before each scene was shot. Not what you would call standard practice on any set, an interesting element in the film that adds more texture to this period film which focuses on a small German village that is in search of a secret for making ruby glass, after the only one who knew it had recently died. It’s as if the sky is about to fall from above them.

Focusing on the hypnotising for a moment we have actors standing in a daze yet still functioning, able to relay their lines, allowing for a coherent film to unfold. The otherwise lifeless figures could be mistaken for the living dead of the 18th century walking around search for anything but brains. It’s something you really have to see to believe really. Scenes in the pub where they sit in a state of shock at the most horrific news.

Whilst around them a master is driven by this secret for making ruby glass, who is under is own spell to that drives him beyond distraction. It’s quietly mesmerising what is on-screen as Herzog combines the mind-control with superstition, do the actors believe the lines they are saying as pure those in a script or those they have been induced to say, believe and taking them more literally for authenticity. Unaware of their on-screen image for the camera, once under they are lost to the lines and actions being fed to them by the director and hypnotherapist.

We have two central figures one the master who owns the glassworks that is renowned for the ruby glass that will stop at nothing. Living with a father who has not risen from his chair in 12 years, carried like a king around with his own entourage. The master Huttenbesitzer (Stefan Güttler) lives only to find the secret, going to extreme measures, such as destroying the dead glass-blowers house to unearth the secret, it must be there in some form to be found. Taking a part the sofa which results is nothing more than embarrassment for him. Without the Ruby glass he is nothing it seems. Going into a state of tunnel vision, little else matters to him, even his staff are affected by this quest.

Whilst a local hunter Hias (Josef Bierbichler) has his own premonitions, at first he seems to be the sanest of the village, living in the forest, embracing nature as its wanders by. Taking in the fog rolling across the mountains, its breathtaking cinematography for the opening of the film, as if we are in another world away from humanity and the constructs we create for ourselves, falling into these traps that can lead to destruction. Something that finally takes hold of him. Predicting all manner of terrible events, the end of the world is nigh with him around. Not really concerned with the ruby glass hysteria, more so a bear in the mountains that needs to be tamed.

The village is the real beast that is looming, as they allow superstition to take hold as the film progresses. Even as two drunks are found, presumed dead until they look further. The hypnotised state of the actors really adds to the authenticity of the films tone, unable to think for themselves they are easily leads by unfounded ideas, even as the age of enlightenment was upon them. A fable unfolds to teach us a lesson to not give in to rumour, a stark reminder of the directors countries past which is obviously present. To not use scapegoats, to think rationally, otherwise we are enter a world where we turn on ourselves. Something which I found before with Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and to a lesser extent in The Enigma of Kasper Hauser/Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (1974) when man is hidden like a countries shame that they want to forget and try to move on without fully dealing with the consequences.

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2 responses

  1. Nice review! Sounds creepy.

    February 8, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    • I wouldn’t say it’s creepy so much, more that Herzog has made it all the more of control

      February 8, 2015 at 8:39 pm

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