Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Heart of Glass



Herz aus Glas : (West) Germany 1976 : Werner Herzog : 94 mins

Its the early days of the industrial revolution in a small, isolated German town where the only large-scale employer is a glassware business owned by a decadent family of local aristocrats. The firm and thus the town are plunged into crisis when glass expert Muhlbeck dies, taking with him the secret of the firms renowned ruby glass. The impact upon bosses and workers alike is a mood of desolate, terminal, dejection. The only person immune from this cloud of depression is a bear-like shepherd, Hias (Joseph Bierbichler), who happens to be gifted with second sight. As the general mood darkens to a more violent hysteria, Hiass visions gallop forward in time, through the bloody events of the 20th century, and beyond

Combining aspects of gothic horror movie, weird fairytale and crazy comedy, Heart of Glass is a way-out bit of seventies experimental cinema thats also a wildly over-ambitious chronicle of a nations history, art and philosophy nothing less than an attempt to analyse the essence of Germanys tortured soul. Its also one of the most aggressively soporific films ever made, best known these days for Herzog having supposedly hypnotised the entire cast (presumably excepting Bierbichler) in order to convey the world-out-of-joint impact of the ruby-glass crisis, and also recapture the pace of an era completely removed from our own.

Whatever the process, the results are often agonisingly protracted, with heavy-lidded rustics intoning their lines in a robotic monotone. The effect extends to the viewer, and we may find ourselved being sucked into this sleepy world of nightmarish stasis. Heart of Glass clearly isn’t like anything else and this may not necessarily be a good thing. It is recommended, however. And so is drinking some black coffee beforehand.

For a more in depth review click here.

17th August, 2001
(seen National Film Theatre, London, Aug-8-01)

by Neil Young