In a period of transition from an ancient to a modern era, the prophet Hias, who sees future images of the forthcoming end of the world, foretells the people of a forest town in Bavaria of a fire in the glass blowing factory, source of prosperity for the whole town.
Of all the (many) crazy ways Werner Herzog has made his films, this must be one of the strangest: for this story of madness and prophecy, made at his peak, he had almost all the cast act while under hypnosis. The result: bizarre, appropriately trance-like cinema that could be no one’s but his.
Probably the strangest of Herzog's films that I have seen. The actors were apparently hypnotised throughout, and the film gives you the sense that you are being hypnotised as well! It is somewhat cryptic, but appears to pit the spirituality of the medieval/early modern period (as represented by the character of Hias) against the encroaching modernism of the industrial age (presaged by Hias' apocalyptic visions).
Some of the most hauntingly beautiful camera work I have ever seen particularly in the beginning and the film's series of final shots. There are village scenes that remind me of the paintings of Bruegel. Herzog is consistently the most interesting director out there with works that challenge what film is and point the way for what it could be. Here's an in-depth piece on this film: http://tinyurl.com/jtryfxx.
What an amazing film. Its true test is its viewing, and its memory... the red glass in hand, the vistas, and the relationship between all to the world around as if we are watching not only men but also space and time itself... I always collected films by the rule, "Could I watch this one twice?"... but I have also added to that films that, watched once, remain vivid and bright forever. The secret of the ruby glass.
Once I had a love and it was a gas. Eventually I passed out, but not before passing through a series of curious visions and, of course, having my heart broken. This may (or may not) help explain the esteem in which I hold Herz Aus Glas--very considerable, and poorly oxygenated. Along with Kaspar Hauser and Woyzeck, holy fool Herzog scaled his dizziest heights here. Or so it seemed while I was breathing the air there.
I'm not sure Herzog is a good storyteller—a brilliant filmmaker, certainly, good at developing concepts and finding/conjuring sights and sounds that are cosmic and provocative. But a film like Heart of Glass, rich in ideas as it is, suffers a bit from an absence of narrative clarity and momentum. Even if, as conjuring acts go, the hypnosis provides an inspired, beautiful metaphor for a stumbling civilization.