Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Heart of Glass

Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass is a pretty good little movie that I wanted to love, but only ended up liking a lot. It has Herzog's usual tremendous imagery, and is famous for being the movie where Herzog hypnotized his entire cast so that all the actors give very stilted, odd performances. For a time this works to convey to us a sense of the weirdness of this small 18th century Bavarian town. The only actors not under hypnosis are the glassblowers (as that would've been dangerous during filming) and the prophetic seer Hias (Josef Bierbichler), underscoring his difference from everyone around him. The story concerns this small town's head glassblower dying, and taking to his grave the secret of making the ruby colored glass the town is famous for.

The stilted acting works to set a mood, but the movie becomes slow and a little boring because of the lack of life and energy. It's never quite a lifeless movie, as there is a certain fascination to watching these actors in this condition, but it doesn't really work dramatically for a full 90 minutes. Of course, it contains some of Herzog's best images, one in particular based on Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, one of my favorite paintings. But overall, it stands as middle Herzog, one I'd recommend but certainly not as a starting point. However, for myself, with Herzog being one of my top 5 filmmakers, I really enjoyed it.

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