Heimat revisited

by Chris Bertram on December 17, 2004

A few months ago I expressed interest in seeing Edgar Reitz’s series Heimat again. It was finally released on DVD (in the UK) in mid-November and I was lucky enough to get the 6-disc set as a birthday present this year. It is nineteen years since I first watched it, and just watched the final, eleventh, episode of the 925 minute epic last night. It didn’t disappoint me at all. From the first scenes, when Paul Simon, returning from the 1914–18 war, walks back into the village of Schabbach, I was entranced. Many of the characters, often played by people who had never acted before and never would again, have a quite wonderful presence. Nearly everything is understated and done in an apparently matter-of-fact manner. Yet Reitz manages to reveal continuities of character over very vast stretches of time, as well as having the characters whom one is drawn to admire in one period of their lives turn into ogres in others. Of course, the Nazi period dominates the central part of the series and Reitz is very good at showing a range of reactions to it: Katharina, the matriarch, is the most hostile, after she witnesses the arrest of her communist nephew, and she is willing to confront the odious and evil Wilfried, the local SS-man. In between are characters like Eduard, a somewhat naive man who is pushed by his ambitious wife, the ex-prostitute Lucie, into becoming the Nazi mayor. The constant threads are Maria, born in 1900 whose life we trace from early adulthood to her inheritance of the matriarch role, to her death, and Glasich, the narrator and village drunk, always there with comment, but never doing much. And Paul is always there as a presence or as an absence….

I don’t want to spoil the experience by giving more plot details here. I think it one of the most wonderful filmic meditations on love, time, ageing, family, tyranny, kindness, place, restlessness, forgiveness, memory, …. Everyone should watch Heimat, several times.

Available on “a region 2 DVD in the UK”:http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000284A56/junius-21 , in a rather nice set with accompanying book. North Americans will have to get a multi-region player and a TV capable of displaying PAL, or wait. The “complete script”:http://www.erfilm.de/h1/frame.html is available online (in German).



raj 12.17.04 at 10:45 am

Thanks for the link to the text.

Was the DVD in the original German (even if with subtitles)? Or was it dubbed into English. We watched Das Boot (an excellent movie and mini-series) in the original German and as dubbed (for the second release of the movie in the US) and dubbing loses quite a bit.

As an aside totally unrelated to this post, we (we’re German speakers) refer to Bush’s “Homeland Security” initiative as “Heimatsicherheit.” There’s a bit of a Nazi ring to it.


Chris Bertram 12.17.04 at 11:11 am

Yes, in the original German, with English subtitles (which you could turn off if you wanted to).


Ken Houghton 12.17.04 at 3:40 pm

Many norteamericanos have realised that Radio Shack sells a VERY cheap DVD player that is set for “Region 0.”

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