The little one starts a war, and the big one across the ocean extinguishes it … Then a strict master comes who takes people’s shirts and their skin with them. After the war, you think there’ll be peace, but there won’t be.
A Bavarian mountain town of somnambulist glassmakers is torn apart after the man with the secret of their famed ruby glass dies unexpectedly. The first couple of scenes establish that this movie will be more concerned with natural beauty, poetry, prophesy, and irrational human behavior than with story, and that’s just fine with me.
Prophet Hias is Josef Bierbichler (the man Woyzeck‘s wife is cheating with, later of Code Unknown). The rest are mostly non-actors who agreed to be hypnotized by the director, asked to behave strangely for the movie, and behaving strangely in different, unexpected ways due to the hypnosis. It’s a slow-moving, heavily stylized movie with bizarre music
Two neighbors have a slow-motion bar fight and later one dies. The Master of the glassworks has his people tear apart the head glassmaker’s house to search for the secret, later kills a girl to get blood for the ruby glass. The factory is burned down and the people throw Hias in jail with the Master. Either he escapes and fights an invisible bear or the ending is one of his visions, during which he tells of a boatload of men heading out from a remote island to find the end of the world.
“Everyone is walking into a foreseen disaster.” The commentary with Herzog is good. It was shot in Bavaria, reminiscent of the small village where he grew up, and the hypnosis was used to show the town’s “collective trance.”