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A little magic power

Posted by Mick on January 24, 2010 – 12:06 am

Something’s at the edge of your mind, you don’t know what it is.
Something you were hoping to find, you don’t know what it is.
Then you hear the music, and it all comes crystal clear.
The music does the talking, says the things you want to hear.

Art should speak to your soul.  That’s what makes it art.  At least, that’s my belief.  Art speaks to you, but it’s often a whisper in your ear, difficult to make out.  You have to be willing to listen.  You have to concentrate.  On top of that, art often speaks in riddles.  Once you hear what art is saying to you, you have to figure out what it means.  It requires some effort.

Last night, I watched Werner Herzog’s Heart of Glass.

Those among you who are looking for mindless entertainment, turn back now.  This is an art film.  This is an experimental film.  This film is an experiment.  A glorious, wonderful experiment.

This is a film from early in Herzog’s career.  Released in 1976, it was his 6th feature in 8 years.  Herzog shot the film in Bavaria, close to the home where he was raised.  It’s loosely based on a legendary Bavarian mystic, Mühlhiasl, a legend which may have been based on the real life of Matthias Stormberger, a Bavarian cowherd who was known as a mystic, a seer of the future.

The film concerns a cowherd, Hias, a mystic who sees visions of the future and relates them to the villagers.  As the film opens, he is relating his latest vision, a vision of the end of the world.  Herzog lays this narrative over a wonderful time lapse image shot of fog banks rolling through a valley, sped up so that it looks like a raging torrent, a river of clouds, which then dissolve into actual waterfalls, which then dissolve into… things you would be well served to see for yourself.

We learn that the village is in mourning.  The village exists to serve the glass factory, which is renowned for its “Ruby Glass”, and the master glassblower has died, taking the secret of the Ruby Glass with him.  The entire village is disturbed that the end of the Ruby Glass will be the end of the village, and their depression slides into a type of group madness. No one is more upset than the factory owner, ensconced in his castle, surrounded by his servants and a collection of the Ruby Glass.  The story is less clear after this.  For a very good reason.  With the exception of the actor playing Hias, and the professional glassblowers, all of the actors are performing under hypnosis.  In light of the fact that they were working with a giant furnace and blobs of molten glass, I think we can all agree that letting the glassblowers remain conscious was a wise idea.

Werner Herzog made a movie in which all of his actors are hypnotized, in many cases improvising their dialogue.

Stop.  Think about that for a second.  Improvising their dialog under hypnosis.

That’s experimental, baby.  At this point, narrative thread goes out the window.  At this point, the meaning you thought you were communicating goes out the window.  You’ve opened your film up to the collective unconscious and given it creative control.

This of course leads me to wonder if the line “I’ll sleep off my hangover on your corpse” was in the original script or not.  Either way, it was wonderful.  Delivered in a monotone by an actor staring blankly into the distance.  There is also a female character who may or not be mentally retarded, but who definitely plays an entire scene holding a large duck for no discernible reason.

This all sounds very weird.  And it is.  It is also unbelievably fascinating.

One thing that immediately struck me as meaningful is the fact that everyone in this village, everyone in this “world” if you will, is walking around in a daze, a fog, with the exception of the mystic.  The man who lives in his head is the only seeing the world as it really is.  Hias’ visions seem to tell a story of the future of the world, Germany in particular, the horrors of war and destruction to come, and the people around him are oblivious to his warnings.  They hear, yet they do not hear.

The aforementioned line “I’ll sleep off my hangover on your corpse” is spoken in a conversation between two men in a bar.  Hias as told them that one will fall out of the hayloft and die as the other one falls and, landing on the body of the first one, survives.   Both men believe that this will happen, even as the man who is destined to die remarks that all they have to do to avoid this fate is not go to sleep in the hayloft.  And yet, the next morning, there they are.  One man sleeping off his hangover on the corpse of his friend.

What is fate?  Is it destiny that can’t be altered, or is it our foolish refusal to heed the warning signs that fate puts in our path?  Can we change our future, or do we refuse to change or future?

After a night’s sleep and some considered reflection, I came away with something else.  It’s a thing I’ve always known, but this film really brings it to light in a different way.  Sometimes, it’s not about the story.  It’s about how you tell the story.  The telling IS the story.

At least that’s what it said to me.

Verdict?  If you’re looking to escape into a story and forget the worries of the world, avoid this one.  Get thee to Blockbuster and grab Turner & Hootch.

If you want to see the end result of an artist’s attempts to push the boundaries of his craft, this is a must see.  Herzog takes an old art, the Bavarian folk tale, and translates it to the modern yet conventional art of film, which he then spins into a completely new type of art with his unique twist.

This project is fun!

This afternoon, Tara and I went to a coffee shop and met up with an old friend from high school.  My old friend, not Tara’s.  Tara didn’t know her or her husband.  I had actually met her husband once, a few years ago.  But he wasn’t an old friend.  He was a guy I met once.  I hope we all understand the social dynamics that were involved now.  As I alluded to in the previous sentence, Rachel  and I had touched base once before a few years ago, but given the fact that we were both in a state of clinical depression (for completely different reasons, of course) at the time, we didn’t stay in touch. For those of you having a hard time keeping up, Rachel is my friend from high school.  The one with the husband.  Tara is my wife.  Me?  I AM IRON MAN!

We’re both much better now, and today was fun.  Rachel’s husband is quite charming, quite funny, and I can definitely see spending more time with them in the future.  They are both wonderfully geeky.

It has put me in a reflective mood, of course.  Big surprise there, huh?  What doesn’t put me in a reflective mood?  I’m not one for getting back in touch with people from my past.  For the most part, the past is behind me.  I’m not the same person I was back then.  But then something like today happens, and I realize that I am the same person I was back then.  I’m just a better version of that person.

And maybe that person wasn’t such a bad guy after all.  He was just confused.  Almost dieing at age 16 will do that to you.  But that’s another story.  For another day.

What the fuck is a Zhu Zhu Pet?  Has anyone seen this?  How long has this been going on?  The Chinese make fake hamsters that are actually more annoying than real hamsters?  They don’t piss on everything, but they do dress like douchebags.  And make lots of noise.  Lots of extremely annoying noises.  I’m not a fan of live hamsters.  I’m not sure this is an improvement.

OK, time for bed.  Tomorrow I work on my MP3’s.  Then we go see A Town Called Panic.  Then I bury my head in a script.  And a song.  Always a song.

I’m young, I’m wild, and I’m free . . . I’ve got the magic power of the music in me.


This post is under “Film, Herzog, Personal” and has 1 respond so far.
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  1. 1. Robert Lambert Said:

    Hello Mick! Reading your take on Herzog’s film puts me right in the mood to watch it.. so I’d like to borrow it if possible! Personal reflection must be in the air, because I’ve been deep into it since Christmas and hear many other friends talking about going through shifts in life. Considering the new decade we’re entering, or ending, it’s not surprising that ‘end-of-times’ being a part of the mass subconscious would force self-analysis. As long as you can remember that experience only equals knowledge and what you do with it is what matters, then there’s no reason to drag. The hard part is putting your brain to work for you instead of trying to forget what seems negative – every event is useful when you find a use for the information gathered. And you will. Because you’re a writer.
    -RL

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