HEART OF GLASS (HERZ AUS GLAS) (director/writer: Werner Herzog; screenwriter: Herbert Achternbusch; cinematographer: Jorg Schmidt-Reitwein; editor: Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus; music: Popol Vuh and Studio der fruhen Music; cast: Josef Bierbichler (Hias), Stefan Güttler (Huttenbesitzer), Clemens Scheiitz (Adalbert), Sonja Skiba(Ludmilla); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Werner Herzog; New Yorker Films Release; 1976-West Germany-in German with English subtitles)
“In this intense documentary, Herzog had his actors perform under hypnosis.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Eccentric German filmmaker Werner Herzog (“The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser”/”Grizzly Man”/”The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans“) is known for going to any lengths to make a film. In this intense documentary, Herzog had his actors perform under hypnosis (except for Josef Bierbichler). The hermetic stylized film veers between being hypnotic and soporific. It’s set in a 19th-century isolated Bavarian village. There a mystic nomad shepherd (Josef Bierbichler) dies without revealing the lost secret formula for a precious ruby glass. The seer has predicted man’s greed will bring on world wars, the destruction of his village and the coming of the industrial era.The uncaring materialistic village glass factory owner (Stefan Güttler) is obsessed with finding the seer’s formula and will kill his maid (Sonja Skiba) to find the secret in her blood.
When the glass factory owner, a decadent aristocrat, dies without revealing the secret formula,the village that depended on the now burned down factory for employment has lost what made it special and suffers great economic consequences. The villagers try any means to learn the secret formula, hoping to regain their lost art and sense of pride.
The elusive absurd allegorical pic conveys a dreamlike atmosphere of vision, of hallucination, of prophecy, of going through life as if sleepwalking through it, of materialism and of collective madness. It’s beautifully shot, with stunning images, and has such ear-ringing dialogue as one character saying“Rats will bite your earlobes.” If you’re in the mood for a one-of-a-kind film that is haunting but obscure, that demands intellectual analysis, then this Herzog film should give the thinking viewer much to chew on that might or not be in the pic–such as a Nostradamus-like prophesy of the end of the world.
The experimental apocalyptic film was co-scripted by Herzog and Herbert Achternbusch ((The Last Hole”), a writer-director-producer-actor in his own right, and remains an intriguing romanticized enigma that will appeal to only a limited audience of Herzog freaks and those with a fondness for films that have a heart made of glass.
REVIEWED ON 2/16/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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