Heimat Review

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Over 11 chapters, multiple stories unfold concerning the German village of Schabbach from 1919 - 1982, centering around Maria, first as a teenager, and evolving as a matriarch.


Despite being hailed by some as a sophisticated soap opera, Edgar Reitz has always insisted that his magisterial Heimat trilogy owes most to the novels of Dickens and Proust.

Heimat (1984) concentrated on Maria Simon, a hausfrau in the Rhineland village of Schabbach, whose three sons were shaped by the rise and fall of Nazism.  

Yet, while the focus lingered on one family, Reitz also showed how ordinary Germans responded to the socio-political events for which the victorious Allies later insisted they took responsibility. Thus, we're asked to empathise with the loser who joins the Party to acquire a semblance of civic status, as well as the mother who sees her husband and sons depart from the simple values that she had always cherished.  

Although it provoked some angry domestic responses for its perceived romanticising of a traumatic era, Heimat was lauded by international critics and became a must-see TV series around the world.  

Running 1,538 minutes, Die Zweite Heimat (1992) became the longest feature film in screen history. Its 13 episodes introduced us to 71 principal characters, whose freewheeling interaction touched on many of the key social, political and cultural issues that helped define the 1960s. But, despite its spectacular scale, this chronicle of country boy Hermann Simon's turbulent decade in the big city has the intimacy of a book, in which each chapter explored a facet of a Cold War Germany still coming to terms with its Fascist past.  

There are clearly autobiographical elements in Reitz's scenario. But everyone can recognise snapshots from their own youth in the diverse storylines, which are played with authentic conviction by a splendid ensemble, led by Henry Arnold, as the impressionable Hermann, and Salome Kammer, as his elusive Muse, Clarissa.  

The tryptich reached its climax with Heimat 3 (2005), a six-part masterpiece that brought the influence of America, Russia and East Germany to bear on the insular Rhineland region of the Hunsrück.

 The way in which Reitz contrasted the tempestuous on-off relationship between Arnold's conflicted composer and Kammer's avant-garde chanteuse with the tensions that followed the reunification of Germany was masterly, not only for the assuredness of Reitz's storytelling, but also for his command of the complex politico-cultural details that made the action so engrossing and authentic. He also handled the impressive supporting cast with supreme delicacy. It was a fitting climax to a monumental achievement will long remain a cinematic landmark.

A must for aficionados, this is a major artistic landmark.