Tuesday, 24 January 2012



Eh? What? WHAT? I'm not exactly a philistine and I'm all in favour of movies that do something interesting or offbeat or a little bit different, but when it comes to unbounded Art the lack of limitation enjoyed by absolute creativity can bring its own problems - specifically boring into submission any viewer who isn't on the same aesthetic wavelength. In this instance what is apparently supposed to be some kind of historical allegory emerges as cripplingly dull, failing completely to engage the viewer and boasting an admittedly unusual gimmick that achieves nothing except making the movie even sillier and less accessible. And it's got hurdy-gurdy music in it - the most grating and annoying musical instrument ever devised.

Heart Of Glass isn't a plot-based film: set in 18th century Bavaria and concerns a small village renowned for its production of spectacular red glassware - but unfortunately the factory foreman has died without revealing the secret of the Ruby Glass and without it the glassworks, and thus the town, faces ruin. No-one can find the details of the process; meanwhile everyone steadily goes nuts, holding a party in the village pub for a dead man, and a philosophising cowhand (who may or may not have paranormal abilities) is brought in to solve the secret of the glass.

The big gimmick about Werner Herzog's 1976 film is that almost all the cast were performing under hypnosis - why? If it was to get them to behave as though they'd just been hit round the head with a really large rock then it worked, but frankly nothing is gained from having them speak and movie so awkwardly that it looks like they had no idea what they were doing (which they presumably didn't). Rather than a European art film, it feels like some kind of transmission from outer space - if they made movies on Mars this is probably what they'd look like. It's got a dreamlike feel, and as with most dreams nothing makes sense, people drift in and out without explanation and talk what in the real world would be arrant nonsense.

Despite some nice imagery, it's achingly dull and too impenetrable to rack up much interest even at a slim 90 minutes. I'll admit I'm a relative newcomer to Herzog's work and it may well be, like Jean-Luc Godard and Weekend, that this movie really isn't the best place to start (although I rather liked his Bad Lieutenant film, and I remember rather admiring Nosferatu as well). I'm told Aguirre: Wrath Of God and Fitzcarraldo are better ways into his films; let's hope so. This one genuinely hurt to watch.


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