Heimat (film)

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Heimat
Heimat poster.JPG
Directed by Edgar Reitz
Produced by Hans Kwiet
Edgar Reitz
Written by Edgar Reitz
Peter F. Steinbach
Release dates 16 September 1984 — 13 October 2013
Running time 3,205 mins
Language German
Hunsrückisch

Heimat is the overall title of several series of films in 32 episodes written and directed by Edgar Reitz which view life in Germany between 1919 and 2000 through the eyes of a family from the Hunsrück area of the Rhineland. Personal and domestic life is set against glimpses of wider social and political events. The combined length of the 32 films is 53 hours and 25 minutes, making it one of the longest series of feature-length films in cinema history.

The title Heimat (pronounced [ˈhaɪmat]) is a German word meaning "homeland". Its use is partly an ironic reference to the film genre known as Heimatfilm which was popular in Germany in the 1950s. Heimatfilms were noted for their rural settings, sentimental tone and simplistic morality.

Aesthetically, all three series are notable for their frequent switching between color and black-and-white film to convey different emotional states.

Background[edit]

The Hunsrück, shaded red on a map of modern Germany.

Tales from the Hunsrück Villages[edit]

Before creating the Heimat series Reitz produced a documentary in 1980/81 about people from his home region, the Hunsrück. The same region the Heimat series is later set. In Geschichten aus den Hunsrückdörfern (Tales from the Hunsrück Villages) he showed people who hadn't left the region. This documentary is not considered to be part of the core Heimat series, but sets the stage for the work to come a few years later. It is further interesting because the documentary is about staying in the region, staying home. While the later series is about leaving home.

Autobiographical elements[edit]

Berkeley Film and Media Professor, Anton Kaes (1989) argued that auteur film-maker Edgar Reitz's trilogy was autobiographical. Both Reitz and Paul Simon, his fictional character in Heimat had fathers who were skilled craftsmen. Edgar Reitz was born in 1932 and Paul Simon in 1898 in Hunsrück. They both grew up there, then left when they were in their twenties and returned in their fifties.[1] Like Hermann Simon, in the 1950s Reitz left rural life for the world of German urban avant-garde arts and intelligentsia. Reitz worked at the Institute of Film Design in Ulm, while Hermann became a celebrated conductor in Munich. Wealthy American entrepreneur Paul Simon returned to Hunsrück only briefly when the war ended, but Hermann Simon's return was more permanent. He and his lover Clarissa restored a house overlooking the Rhine that lay in ruins, eventually composing music for representing and celebrating his relationship to heimat. Both Hermann and Reitz 'dramatized the tensions between staying home, leaving and returning (Kaes 1989:164)', Hermann through music and Reitz through film.

Plot[edit]

Heimat[edit]

Heimat, the original series, premiered in 1984 and follows the life of Maria Simon (Marita Breuer), a woman living in the fictional village of Schabbach (the village of Woppenroth in Rhein-Hunsrück, a very rural region of Germany to the west of the Rhine, was used for filming). The film spans the years 1919 to 1982. Subtitled Eine Deutsche Chronik — A German Chronicle, it consists of 11 episodes running in total to 15 hours 24 minutes of screen time and depicts how the events of German history affected the Simon family and the community in which they lived.

Die Zweite Heimat (Leaving Home)[edit]

Die Zweite Heimat (literally "The Second Heimat", and called, in the English version, Leaving Home) (subtitled Chronik einer Jugend — Chronicle of a Youth) followed in 1992. It tells the story of how Maria's youngest son Hermann leaves his rural home and makes a new life for himself as a composer in Munich during the socially turbulent years of the 1960s.

Hermann is a musical prodigy whose teenage romance in 1955 with 26-year old soul mate Klärchen was considered scandalous by his conservative home village. It resulted in her being expelled and coerced not to contact him ever again. Hermann was crushed and vowed never to love again and to leave his wicked village forever. He arrives in Munich at age 19, overwhelmed and with no place to stay. He finds a private room opening in a month, leaving the deposit with a flamboyant Hungarian woman. His friend Renate, a law student, allows Hermann to sleep on her floor but he is put off by her sexual advances. He finally rooms with Clemens, a fellow Hunsrücker who plays jazz drums in Munich's clubs. Hermann is accepted into the music conservatory, where he meets the incredibly talented Juan from Chile, whose school application is rejected on the grounds his marimbas are "folklore". Hermann and Juan network with the avant-garde culture surrounding the conservatory, including film students, while Hermann takes on odd jobs and Juan works as a gymnast teacher. Both Juan and Hermann have a brief fling with the beautiful cellist Clarissa, who fears intimacy but is drawn to those who fear it too. The students are gradually drawn to the Foxhole, a mansion headed by a wealthy art patroness said to be a "collector of artists".

Heimat 3[edit]

Heimat 3 (subtitled Chronik einer Zeitenwende — Chronicle of a Changing Time) premiered in 2004. It picks up Hermann's story in 1989 as he returns to Schabbach and depicts the events of the period from the fall of the Berlin Wall until 2000. The cinema version consists of six episodes running to 11 hours 29 minutes, although controversially the version broadcast on the German ARD television network in December 2004 was edited to six ninety-minute episodes[2] and it is this shortened version which was released on DVD.

Heimat Fragments[edit]

Heimat Fragments: The Women, released cinematically in 2006, focuses on the women of the Simon family at the turn of the millennium, and in the 1960s.

The Other Heimat[edit]

In April 2012 Reitz started filming Die andere Heimat (The other Heimat). The movie is situated in the 19th century. It centres around two brothers, their families and love relations from the Hunsrück area and their decision to flee or not to flee hunger and poverty by migrating to Brazil. Principal filming was completed in August 2012. It was scheduled for release in October 2013.

Characters[edit]

Simon family[edit]

  • Matthias Simon (1872–1945), blacksmith. Married to Katharina Schirmer (1875–1948). Parents of Eduard, Pauline, and Paul.
    • Eduard Simon (1897–1967), mayor of Rhaunen. Married Lucie Hardtke (1906–1978), a brothel madam in Berlin who embraced life in the Hunsrück. Early in his life Eduard was convinced that there was gold in the Hunsrück streams. Eduard and Lucie were parents of Horst Simon (1934–1948) who died at an early age.
    • Paul Simon (1898–1984), owner of Simon Electric. Married Maria Wiegand in 1922 and fathered Anton and Ernst (see Maria Wiegand below). After returning from World War I fighting, Paul felt claustrophobic in Hunsrück society and ran away to the U.S. in 1928 to start Simon Electric in Detroit, Michigan.
    • Pauline Simon (1904–75), assistant jewelry shop owner. Married watchmaker Robert Kröber (1897–1944). Both became modestly wealthy during the 1930s. Parents of Gabi (1935- ) and Robert (1937- ).

Wiegand family[edit]

  • Alois Wiegand (1870–1965), mayor of Schabbach. Married Martha Wiegand (1878–1945). Parents of Wilfried and Maria. Alois was an abrasive, wealthy man who embraced status symbols, and later became a Nazi supporter. With his SS son Wilfried he oversaw the village's allegiance to Hitler during WWII.
    • Gustav Wiegand (1897–1917), died as a World War I soldier. Not married; no children.
    • Wilfried Wiegand (1915–72), member of the SS during the war. Executed a downed British pilot under false pretenses. At a Schabbach party revealed that Jews were being sent "up the chimney" and in the vein of Himmler lamented how his SS comrades suffered from this unpleasant task. He became a farmer after the war and was also a member of the Christian Democratic Union. Did not marry and had no children.
    • Maria Wiegand Simon (1900–82), matriarch of the family after WWII. Married Paul Simon and gave birth to Anton and Ernst. Gave birth in 1940 to Hermann, with Otto Wohlleben (1902–44), a quarter-Jewish engineer who came to work on a new highway before the outbreak of war, and was killed defusing a bomb.
      • Anton Simon (1923–95), owner of Simon Optical factory. Married to Martha Hanke (1924–1987). Had numerous children born 1945-53: Marlies, Hartmut, Dieter, Helga, and Gisela. Anton worked for a German Army propaganda unit during WWII and served on the Eastern front. There is one scene showing him filming single executions - these are almost certainly partisans given that the time is 1943 (and widespread executions in the field had ceased on the orders of Himmler) and also the fact that the machine gun crew carrying out the executions are German Army regulars and not Einsatzgruppen. After the German defeat and subsequent imprisonment in a Russian labor camp, Anton walked home to Germany in the late 1940s. He founded Simon Optical with investment from father Paul.
      • Ernst Simon (1924–97), Luftwaffe pilot and construction business owner. He had an early aptitude for flying. After the war he attempted unsuccessfully to operate a helicopter business. In the 1960s he started a thriving home renovation business which destroyed the village's traditional architecture.
      • Hermann Simon (1940-), conductor and composer. At age 15 he was in love with Klärchen Sisse, 26, who left the area after their affair was discovered. Moved away from the Hunsrück at age 18 to study music in Munich.

Schirmer family[edit]

  • Katharina Schirmer (1875–1948), matriarch of the family before WWII. Married to Matthias Simon (see Matthias Simon above).
  • Marie-Goot Schirmer (1882–1960), sister of Katharina Simon, married to Mäthes-Pat (1869–1949). Marie-Goot was characterized as a gossipy neighbor.
    • Karl Glasisch (1900–82), son of Marie-Goot. Throughout the film he was Schabbach's friendly, good-natured drunk, dissociated from village life but seeing all. He served as the story narrator.
  • Hans Schirmer (1873–1943), lived in Bochum. Father of Fritz and brother of Katharina. Was remembered for having the same birthday as Hitler.
    • Fritz Schirmer (1903–37), young Communist sympathizer who lived in Bochum. Married Alice (1902–45). Parents of Lotti. Fritz was sent to a concentration camp, but he was later released on condition he stayed out of any political activity.
      • Lotti Schirmer (1923- ), chief secretary of Simon Optical. Came from Bochum with Katherina after her father was arrested. After WWII she was a carefree single girl, was a friend of Klärchen Sisse, and in later life she married Sepp Vilsmeier (1920- ). Adopted Vietnamese children Hoa and Hou.
      • Ursel Schirmer (1936–45). Died at an early age.
    • Walter Schirmer (1899–1943), of Bochum, married Lilli (1901–1969). No children.

Other characters[edit]

  • Klärchen Sisse (1929- ), worked at Simon Optik and was a friend of Lotti Schirmer. She enters the story in 1945, as a 16-yr-old refugee from elsewhere in Germany who has been advised by Ernst to go his mother's house in Schabbach, where she will be 'looked after'. Just as he says, Klärchen is accepted into the Simon household and effectively treated as one of the family, eventually gaining a position with Simon Optik. A 1956 love affair with Hermann Simon, who is 11 years her junior, results in her becoming pregnant, leaving the village and having an abortion.
  • Apollonia (1900-?), brief love interest for Paul Simon c. 1920. Was ostracized in Schabbach for her dark complexion. Had a child by a Frenchman and moved to France, never to be seen again.
  • Martina (c. 1910 - 1945), a prostitute from Berlin and friend of Lucie Hardtke who attempted to bring her trade to the Hunsrück. Was in love with Pollak (1910–45), both died in Berlin.
  • Hänschen Betz (c. 1908-?), son of the Schabbach basketmaker, had an injured eye from childhood. With the encouragement of soldiers he became a sharpshooter. Died on the Russian Front during WWII, for which Eduard felt some responsibility having encouraged Hänschen's shooting practice when young.
  • Fritz Pieritz (1902-?), good-natured assistant to Otto Wohlleben, later worked for Anton Simon at Simon Optik.
  • Denise de Gallimasch (c. 1900-?), a French horse rider of debatable nobility en route from Paris to Berlin.

Reception[edit]

Heimat was one of director Stanley Kubrick's favourite films.[3] It is ranked #59 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.[4] It also finished in 6th place when BBC Two ran a 40th birthday poll celebrating the station's greatest programmes and was 10th in Channel 4's 50 Greatest TV Dramas.[5]

Criticism[edit]

Heimat has been criticized for its selective interpretation of German history. There is little treatment of the hyperinflationary spiral of the 1920s, the Great Depression, or the Holocaust of World War II. Important aspects of German history during the period of National Socialism are excluded.[1][6]

"When you show the 1930s as a golden age of prosperity and excitement in the German countryside, when you are shown the Germans as victims of the war, then you inevitably find yourself asking: But what about the other side? What about Auschwitz? Where is the director's moral judgment? To which the color filters insistently reply: 'Remember, remember, this is a film about what Germans remember. Some things they remember in full color. Some in sepia. Others they prefer to forget. Memory is selective. Memory is partial. Memory is amoral.' (Ash 1985 cited in Andres[7])[8]

Schabbach is also depicted as unusually idyllic, with no shops or markets, no financial crisis, and no personal conflict during the first half of the movie. Its themes of decadent American values and Western corporate greed rising up against the innocent simplicity of the Hunsrück have been seen as "resurrecting a discourse that prevailed in the nineteenth century about the modernization of Germany's society and economy ... no compromises or delicate balances are possible".[9]

"With this simple trick, Reitz manages to escape from the chains that have weighed down most German artistic treatments of twentieth-century German history. 'We try to avoid making judgments,' he writes. Not for him the agonizing directorial evenhandedness, the earnest formulations of guilt, responsibility, or shame. Not for him the efforts to 'come to terms with' or 'master' the past. Not 'Vergangenheitsbewaltigung.' Not Bitburg. Just memory and forgetting (Ash 1985 cited in Andres[7])."[10]

Barbara Gabriel provided a model for reading the complexities of memory and forgetting in Heimat by situating unheimlich within the heimlich, in a Freudian 'one within the other structure'.[11] Gabriel argued that Reitz' television series was in response to a larger movement in Germany national memory work provoked in part by an American television series entitled Holocaust viewed by millions. As European art in general and German art in particular resurged in the 1960s, artists like Günter Grass and Edgar Reitz captured international attention as they grappled with issues of identity in a divided, post-Holocaust Germany. Gabriel developed the concept of an impulse towards national memory work in Germany that stemmed from a haunted subject yearning for a lost, far away, nostalgic place, a utopic homeland. "How do we confront that which we have excluded in order to be, whether it is the return of the repressed or the return of the strangers?"[12] In other words, that which we fear as 'other' is within ourselves through our shared humanity. Repressed memories haunt all of us.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kaes, Anton (1989). "Germany as Memory: Edgar Reitz's Heimat". From Hitler to Heimat : the return of history as film. Cambridge, Mass/London, UK: Harvard University Press. p. 164. 
  2. ^ http://www.heimat-komplett.de
  3. ^ Stanley Kubrick exhibition website, Newsletter No.17, April 2005
  4. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema – 59. Heimat". Empire. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Timothy Garton Ash (19 December 1985). "The Life of Death". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Alan Andres. "Die Zweite Heimat: Published reviews: Reception in the United States". Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ Timothy Garton Ash (19 December 1985). "The Life of Death". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  9. ^ Barkin, Kenneth (October 1991). "Heimat: Eine deutsche Chronik (Film)". American Historical Review 96 (4): 1124, 3. 
  10. ^ Timothy Garton Ash (19 December 1985). "The Life of Death". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved June 22, 2012. 
  11. ^ Gabriel, Barbara (2004). "The Unbearable Strangeness of Being; Edgar Reitz's Heimat and the Ethics of the Unheimlich". In Barbara Gabriel; S. Ilcan. Postmodernism and the Ethical Subject. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press. 
  12. ^ Kristeva, Julia (1982). Powers of Horror. New York: New York University Press. 

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