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A small village is renowned for its "Ruby Glass" glass blowing works. When the foreman of the works dies suddenly without revealing the secret of the Ruby Glass, the town slides into a deep depression, and the owner of the glassworks becomes obssessed with the lost secret. Written by
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.
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