Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Herzog's Glass

I've never been a fan of Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass but I did know that he had hypnotized the cast during the filming, which made the film - at the very least - of note. I'd filed the film away in my mind as a film that was fun to talk about but one I'd probably never see again. But then I happened upon the book Every Night the Trees Disappear, which is about the making of the film, so I thought it was time to revisit the film so I could read the book and be able to relate better to whatever it was the author was writing about.
I still feel it is not a great film - rather vacuous and not well enough developed characters or plot to make it as strong as his best movies. The book though, by Alan Greenberg, is often quite good. Greenberg was on the set during the filming. Much like Les Blanks's documentary Burden of Dreams the book gives insights into Herzog's peculiar and oft-times inspired mind.

One issue I have with the book is that every other chapter is simply a part of the film's script, which sort of gets tedious and makes watching the movie redundant. But the other chapters that comprise what seem to be notes and memories that Greenberg had on set are quite entertaining. Here are some excerpts:

*"My goal is always to find out more about man himself, and film is my means. According to its nature, film doesn't have so much to do with reality as it does with our collective dreams - film chronicles our state of mind.... My task involves a kind of alchemy, to get to the very real life, to keep open to signs or signals of life. And what I chronicle is often the conformity that deforms the soul."

*She begged Herzog for a position on his production team. He was taken by the intensity of her plea.
"Walk from Vienna to Munich," he said, somewhat seriously. "That will tell me how much you want the job."
Regina went home. Shortly thereafter, wearing painfully new boots, she trekked across the wintry, mountainous terrain. Eleven days and twelve Band-Aids later, she arrived at Herzog's house.

*"The rhythm of a film is never established in the editing room. Directors who rely on editing are cowards. Rhythm is made in the shooting - that is filmmaking."

*"If this scene succeeds." he declared, hoarsely, "I will dive into the river and swim across it and back beneath the ice."
Work resumed, and after Hias and Ludmilla had done their task well an hour later, Herzog staggered to the riverside and, without hesitation, began to disrobe....he dove into the water and swam beneath the ice as he vowed to do earlier.... [Read book to get more info....]

*"My characters have no shadows," Herzog had remarked prior to shooting on location.... "Each of them is a character without a past, or whose past does not matter. They come out of the darkness, and people who come out of the darkness cast no shadow...."

*"I never use close-ups," Herzog replied firmly. "Mostly, as close as I allow myself to come in from the breastbone up. Close-ups are a personal violation of the actor. They destroy his privacy, and at the same time they intrude upon the viewer's solitude. I have more respect for those who view my films than to ruin their solitude." 

There's plenty more. Read it.