Heart of Glass (1976)

brooke wat
That was nothing like the song.

casey oh my god
it was like if you asked someone who’s never watched a foreign language film to describe a stereotypical foreign language film.
So slow.
And angsty.
And boring.

brooke And it none of the characters made any sense.
The most normal one is a shepherd prophet whose entire role is describing future wars and warning this servant girl that her master might take advantage of her.

casey To be honest, I don’t know much about director Werner Herzog’s work, but I’m confident he knew the basics of character development and storytelling when he made Heart of Glass. Clearly, he wasn’t aiming for either: this movie is oppressively dull, flat, and lifeless. Which must have been intentional…but it was painful to watch.

brooke I like a good existential movie, but I was bored nearly to tears.
So, here’s a plot summary, such as there is a plot to summarize:
We begin with the prophet Hais, who lives near a small 19th century Bavarian town with an economy based on a special bright red “ruby glass.” Unfortunately, the town’s master glass blower has just died, taking the secret of the glass with him. The town members are in despair, obsessing over the remaining ruby glass, which they regard as having some sort of magical power, as they wonder what will happen to them now.

The town noble, or mayor, or whatever he’s supposed to be, demands that Hais tell him the secret of the glass, but instead the prophet just rambles to anyone who will listen about death and war while random odd stuff happens. At one point a guy who had accidentally killed his friend (by falling asleep on top of him, I think?) dances with the dead body in a scene pretty well sums up the film’s weirdness.


A still from Heart of Glass that portrays how we felt watching it

casey But it’s not fun weird like Un Chien Andalou, it’s just SO BORING. It’s a movie about people looking sad, behaving strangely, and speaking obscure dialogue. Granted, I tend to struggle with impressionistic films anyway, but I I tried to approach it with an open mind. So, complaining aside, here are a few things I found noteworthy:

1. The actors’ weirdly somnambulant performances–apparently they were all filmed under hypnosis, which is interesting, in theory.
2. The glassblowing scenes are neat. I want to learn to blow glass!
3. The prophet Hais might have been interesting in a better movie. Like, there’s some real poetry in his surreal descriptions the coming devastations, even if they don’t make much sense.

brooke The thing that bugged me was how much the “hypnotic” acting felt like watching actors pretending to be hypnotized. I agree that Hais is interesting, but I’m not sure any other film would have made sense of a role like that.
There were some interesting nature shots over folksy 70s guitar music…also, there were a few scenes shot at the same island from the end of the new Star Wars!

casey I guess the sleepwalky acting is the key to the movie. It gives everything a stylized lifelessness that seems to clash with the overwrought, angsty dialogue (best line” “The chaos of the stars makes my head ache!”) I guess it’s meant to convey the sense of dread the town people were feeling, but again, it’s just not interesting to watch.


brooke My favorite line was, “For twelve years you have been sitting in this chair. For twelve years I show you your shoes.”

casey “But, like sleep walkers, people walk towards their doom.”
We could do a review of Heart of Glass made entirely of quotes from Heart of Glass, and it would make as much sense as the movie.

brooke Next time we’ll stick with the original German.

casey “Rats will bite your ear lobes.”

brooke I really wanted to see that prophecy to come true.
There’s one scene where Hais gives some nice insight about the nature of prophesy: He isn’t telling the future, he says, only what he sees in his visions. The townspeople take his word as truth, but he wants them to understand that the future still depends on their present actions.
But then, as he talks, an androgynous woman suddenly starts sleep-dancing on the table and disrobing for some reason.

casey It’s not as sexy as it sounds. I think it’s just after the scene where the guy dances with his dead friend.
Also there’s a chicken next to the dancing naked lady.

brooke A huge chicken.

casey I think we’re in agreement: Heart of Glass didn’t do it for us.

brooke It’s not one I plan to revisit.
Maybe Herzog’s other films are less weird.

casey Rescue Dawn is okay!

brooke If nothing else, at least his Parks and Rec cameo is pretty great.


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