Heart of Glass (1976)

Werner Herzog's most dream-like feature film for which the entire cast was hypnotised. Anchor Bay USA R0 boxset + DVD release.

The Film

Werner Herzog has made a career from directing dream-like films, from the serene visual images of Fata Morgana (1971) and Wild Blue Yonder (2005) to the feverish nightmares of Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979) and Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970), and the hellish imagery of Lessons of Darkness (1992). However, Heart of Glass tops them all - in order to create a dream-like atmosphere over the whole production, Herzog had most of the cast hypnotised - giving their performances a unique, unreal feel.

The story is based on German folklore and tells of Hias, a Bavarian mountain farmhand who has prophetic visions. In the valley below, there is a small town with a glass factory - the owner has died without passing on the secret of its ruby glass, and his son who takes charge is mad. Hias predicts that the factory will soon be consumed by fire.

As with most of Herzog's films, the actual plot is largely irrelevent and could be written on a post-card. It is clear from the seven minute opening sequence of Hias' thoughts and shots of clouds, that this film is not going to be a 'Hollywood' style production - the pacing is almost non-existant and very little actually happens for most of the film - the ending is especially enigmatic. However, the beauty of the film is the mix of hypnotised actors (except for the prophet Hias) and a haunting Popul Vuh soundtrack, that give it a unique atmosphere. Most of the cast are non-actors, although there are a few familiar Herzog-movie faces.

Heart of Glass is Werner Herzog's most poetic and dream-like narrative film - a movie that leaves you wondering what you just watched and whether or not you actually dreamt it. For fans of Herzog's films, this is a must see production - if you like dreamlike films then this comes recommended. Certainly not for the mainstream.

In Brief

Directed by anyone interesting? Werner Herzog - one of European cinema's best directors with a powerful artistic vision in all his films.
Any violence/gore? None
Any sex? A couple of covered-up nude scenes.
Who is it for?
An interesting documentary and of interest to Herzog fans or those interested in tales of survival.
Good Soundtrack?A suitably dreamlike Florian Fricke, Popul Vuh score.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print quality is good with mild grain. There are some scenery shots early on which are deliberately lower quality.
Audio German mono. Sounds fine.
Subtitles English - translate the German track.
AvailabilityAvailable in the Werner Herzog collection boxset, and on an individual disc.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary from Werner Herzog and Norman Hill. Interesting as usual.
  • A suitably strange original cinema trailer.
  • Detailed Production Notes
  • Werner Herzog biography
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Anchor Bay UK release, same features but softer print.
Cuts? None known. German language print.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd August 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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