One of the most startling and beautiful scenes in Werner Herzog movies is the glassblowing scene in Heart of Glass. It’s unexpected—though the movie is about glassblowing, about losing the art in the village itself, in the hands and memories of the craftsmen, and losing the power of it in the stature of the place. What’s really gone is the secret of a red glass; the secret died with the death of one artisan. An insane lord drives his people to produce that particular red, and drives himself more mad in the process. The story is a whirl of madness, sex, death, romance, and (as always with Herzog) haunting music Then suddenly, here is this scene, glassblowers, in what appears to be a huge cave, in the center a circle of fire bins, each blower owning one. Men move up to the fire and on a long rod take up a bit of molten glass, then back away. The man nearest and most visible gracefully and lightly pinchs and pulls at the blob, and slender animal legs appear, two rear, then two fore, then a long, arched neck, a mane, a flowing tail—a delicate glass horse, created in seconds. The daylight society is gone. Here all is hushed and slow and beautiful. It seems possible that they will find the secret of the red glass, but it doesn’t matter. What they’re doing is the most beautiful passage and there’s no explanation, nothing feverish except the red glow of the bins. This is the heart of the movie, the scene that stays and appears in your mind over and over. (originally posted at rmkinder.com)
NewsThe Universe Playing Strings, a novel, recently released by the University of New Mexico Press. For details visit R. M. Kinder.