Saturday, November 30, 2013

HEART OF GLASS (1976) - Werner Herzog

Werner graduates from hypnotizing chickens to hypnotizing his actors and the audience. The overall effect is somewhere between a post-dinner tryptophan daze and a mild concussion sustained in a touch football game. Characters stare into the camera lens, speak in off-kilter koans. Landscapes from all over the world pass before our eyes. Interiors are lit by candlelight. An ethereal Popol Vuh score adds to the bewilderment, lulling you into a simultaneously bored-mesmerized state. Even the "action scenes" have their own peculiar lethargic rhythm, like this bar fight that takes what seems like hours to escalate, both participants staring into space and vaguely threatening each other until a beer stein is lifelessly smashed atop one of their heads.

This odd duck of a flick (yes, there is an actual odd duck waddling about in it) needs to be seen to be believed. Even then, you still might not quite believe it. Was everyone really hypnotized or just acting that way? Did anyone other than Werner understand the words coming out of their mouths? It's all as confounding as the recipe for Ruby Glass which throws this Bavarian town into despair once the master glass blower dies, taking the "secret sauce" with him.

This is another film, like Fata Morgana, which benefits greatly from backstory (i.e., the DVD commentary) and probably a second viewing. Oddly, the most hypnotizing scene in the film does not involve those under hypnotic suggestion, but a more documentary-like sequence of Bavarian blowers working fresh glass. Just watching them slowly turn a jellied blob of molten silica into the shape of horse with little more than his beer breath and a pair of pliers is one of the most hypnotically fascinating things I've ever seen.

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