Peter Munk, a poor charcoal burner, lives with his mother in The Black Forest. Poverty prevents him from marrying Lisbeth, the girl he loves. When he comes across the Little Glass Man, the ...
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Peter Munk, a poor charcoal burner, lives with his mother in The Black Forest. Poverty prevents him from marrying Lisbeth, the girl he loves. When he comes across the Little Glass Man, the good spirit of the forest, the young man asks him for assistance. His wish is granted and he becomes rich. But the fool soon loses all his money after gambling at the inn. In desperation, he asks Dutch Michael, the evil spirit of the forest, to help him to become rich again. The mean giant agrees and gives Peter all the riches in the world, but on one condition: the young man will exchange his heart for a cold stone. He can now marry Lisbeth but can a heart of ice make you and the others happy...?Written by
Have always loved fantasy and fairy-tales, from reading primarily Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm and seeing numerous adaptations of them. Decided to take a break from my re-visiting Russian film period, and old fantasies from East Germany were brought to my attention and kept me intrigued straight-away. 'Heart of Stone' and 'The Singing Ringing Tree' were my proper introductions.
And what a more than worthwhile, great even, introduction, and can't believe it took me so long. Based upon Wilhelm Hauff's 1827 fairy-tale 'Das Kalte Herz' (translated as 'The Cold Stone'), an interesting, lovely and sometimes dark story that is also interesting from a psychological standpoint, 1950's 'Heart of Stone' gave me the feeling afterwards of why there aren't any more older East German fantasy/fairy-tale films and why those that exist aren't better known regardless of their overall quality. 'Heart of Stone' is deservedly one of the more famous examples, as well as being one of its distributor DEFA's most successful films, and does Hauff's story justice.
It still looks good now, which is amazing considering there are many fantasy/fairy-tale films made later that look nowhere near as good, cheap-looking even. It may not be flashy or big in spectacle, the budget and technology being not as advanced at the time, but the story didn't call for that and appreciated that it wasn't overblown and didn't rely too much on effects at the expense of everything else. The production design is suitably rustic and colourful and didn't look simplistic, while it is beautifully shot in colour that never looked too drab or garishly gaudy. The effects have a real charm to them, as well as being well designed and imaginative. Appreciated too that they weren't overused and abused or that the film was over reliant on them.
The music score, courtesy of Herbert Trantow in one of his earliest film scores, doesn't make the mistakes of being intrusive, too loud, monotonous, over-used, cheap-sounding, juxtaposing too much mood-wise that it doesn't fit or too much of its time that it dates the film. It's not one of the most memorable, melodically and how it's used, cleverest or most imaginative scores in the world, but it is a lovely score all the same that is nicely varied in terms of mood, is appealingly orchestrated and it at least fits. Paul Verhoeven directs with skill, not allowing things to get too over the top while ensuring the film has enough personality to stop it from getting dreary. It's alert but has breathing space too.
Writing sounds natural and doesn't descend into cheese, there is a sense of fun without getting too camp while also taking what is sometimes a dark story seriously without being overly so. The story is immensely charming, always engaging and sometimes haunting, never too simple or complex so the traps of being dumbed down or being convoluted aren't fallen into, same goes with avoiding the traps of being too childish or too scary. Despite the length, 'Heart of Stone didn't come over as over-stretched or like there was any extraneous padding, and maintains the story's spirit with the important events there and with full impact. It is a story that needs longer than a short film in my view, and that is not the case with a lot of fairy-tales, because it is not as slight as others.
Characters are as engaging and entertaining as the storytelling, as has been noted they are archetypal but not in a bland or annoying way. The most memorable character is the Glass Man and even more so Dutch Michael, though the leads appeal. The acting suits the characters well, with the only reservation being some over-eagerness and relative inexperience coming from Lutz Moik. Hanna Rucker is charming and radiant as Lisbeth. Paul Bildt, Paul Esser and Erwin Geschonneck enjoy themselves thoroughly, particularly Geschonneck who is sinister and great fun without resorting to excessive scenery-chewing.
Overall, great and certainly didn't leave me cold. 9/10
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