Heimat - A Chronicle of Germany: Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Second Sight
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (25th March 2018).
The Film

Bavarian Film Award (Best Actress): Marita Breuer (won) - Bavarian Film Awards, 1985
ALFS Award (Foreign Language Film of the Year): Heimat (won) - London Critics Circle Film Awards, 1986
Chaplin Shoe (Best Actress): Marita Breuer (won) - Munich Film Festival, 1985
FIPRESCI Prize: Edgar Reitz (won) - Venice Film Festival, 1984
Special Prize on Occasion of the Festival's Jubilee: Edgar Reitz (won) - Venice Film Festival, 1992

Paul Simon (Michael Lesch, later Dieter Schaad) returns from a prisoner of war camp in France to his village of Schabbach in 1919 but is numb to the hero's welcome in light of all of the other young men of the village who never came back. While his father Mathias (Willi Burger) wants him to return to work in the fields and at the forge, Paul puts his wartime radio skills to practice in building the town's first wireless with the financial assistance of mayor Wiegand (Johannes Lobewein) who is mysteriously the only one to have profited from his wartime investments which he flashes before the town with his motorcycle and the town's first automobile (comically shown driving only a few yards from church to home one Sunday). Paul shows little awareness or concern for the national humiliation resulting from the Treaty of Versaille felt by his neighbors or for more local tensions, except when it comes to Apollonia (Marliese Assmann), the maid at the local inn who is treated as an outcast for her gypsy looks, the accusation that she bewitched some of the young men who then died in battle, and rumors that she had a baby with a French soldier that is buried in the midden. Paul discovers that Appolonia does indeed have a child and that it is with its father in Koblenz. While he and Appolonia share an attraction, he does not have the courage to leave Schabbach when she resolves not to go back (choosing independence for herself and her child rather than marriage to the father of her child whose family she believes will be just as intolerant of her). Paul instead proposes to the Wiegand's daughter Maria (Marita Breuer) but spins his wheels in the field and at the forge despite her belief and encouragement until one day, Paul goes out for beer and never returns. Having been exempt from service because of his bad lung, Paul's brother Eduard (Rüdiger Weigang) is a photography nut who ends up in Berlin for treatment where he meets brothel madam Lucie (Karin Rasenack) who marries him under the impression that he is a country landowner. Despite the rude awakening when she discovers the truth, Lucie loves Eduard and is confident that she can mold him into someone who can provide for the material comforts she desires. When Wiegand becomes the local Nazi party chairman through the influence of his SS officer son Wilfried (Markus Dillenburg), Eduard takes over as mayor of the town. Paul's sister Pauline (Eva Maria Bayerwaltes, later Karin Kienzler) marries an older man in jeweler Robert Kröber (Arno Lang), finding herself among those who are benefitting from Germany's economic upswing while her mother Katharina (Gertrud Bredel) sees the opposite as she sees her communist nephew Fritz taken away for "re-education." Even a decade after Paul's disappearance, Maria still refuses to believe that he is dead and lives entirely for their sons while trying to shield them from the harsh realities around them. Maria's second chance at happiness with engineer Otto Wohlleben (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days's Jörg Hube) – in Hunsrück to construct the highway which will turn Schabbach from a half-way point between Paris and Berlin into a bypass – is dashed when Paul writes to the family with plans to visit and she is pressed to make Otto leave out of concern for propriety. Embittered by his father's abandonment, Ernst (Roland Bongard, later Michael Kausch) finds acceptance in the Hitler Youth in order to realize his dream of flying. Anton (Rolf Roth, Markus Reiter, and then Frank Wies), on the other hand, takes up his uncle's fascination with photography and is drafted into the newsreel unit.

While Eduard and Lucie adapt to the American occupation by cozying up the G.I.'s who have commandeered their villa, Kath and Mathias take in Pauline who despairs of ever seeing her drafted husband again, Anton's bride Martha (Gertrud Scherer, later Sabine Wagner) whose husband's last known location was Russia, Ernst's seduced and abandoned girlfriend Klärchen (Yerma's Gudrun Landgrebe) who arrives with news that he is in hiding in France, Maria who is now raising her illegitimate son Hermann (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0458600/, later Jörg Richter, and then Peter Harting) with Otto who was conscripted to the bomb disposal unit and killed in an explosion, faithful cook Marie-Goot (Eva Maria Schneider), and Fritz's daughter Lotti (Andrea Koloschinski, later Anke Jendrychowski, and then Gabriele Blum) who Kath brought home during the diphtheria outbreak. When Paul is finally able to return to Germany – having been refused entry before the second world war due to his inability to provide proof of Aryan ancestry (sending Eduard scrambling to prove that the surname Simon came from Aryan ancestors rather than Jews) – he is regarded as "The American" arriving as he does as the president of Detroit's Simon Electric with a cowboy hat, flashy car, black chauffeur, money, and American goods for the village (including the same Hershey's chocolate bars the G.I.'s gift to the local children). While Paul never felt at home in the years following his return from the first war and, unable to explain to Maria why he left, makes his stay a visit rather than a return. When Anton returns, having walked from Turkey to Schabbach, he has plans take advantage of the dustless air to found an optics factory. For Ernst, the war never ended, and he turns his desire to fly again into a business by marrying into a lumber empire; the first of a series of get rich schemes that crash and burn before he adapts one dedicated to unmaking and remaking Schabbach and the surrounding area, modernizing old houses and profiting on the side from the sale of authentic architectural elements for clients with a taste for the vintage look. Teenage Hermann is a melancholy philosopher with dreams of becoming a composer until he experiences a sexual awakening with an older woman that drives him from his home. Everyone returns to Schabbach eventually for "The Feast of the Living and the Dead."

Subtitled "a chronicle of Germany", Edgar Reitz's epic Heimat translates as "homeland" and looks at the ways in which the fictional Hunsrück village of Schabbach changed from 1919 to 1982 through the eyes of the Simon family and others within their circle of in-laws and friends, the growing gulf between their ideas of home and what it becomes through social upheaval and the changes they wreak in efforts to preserve or change things as part of their own legacies. Although there are some glimpses of military maneuvers and a bombed out Berlin, much of the big historical events happen offscreen, the story partially recollected and constructed out of photographs taken first by Eduard and then by Anton (this method does start to stretch credibility when photographs of private moments in which neither character nor any photographic equipment was present are used as part of the recaps that open each episode). Because of this overall subjective point-of-view, the epic presents a different view of Germans from foreign World War II films, depicting folk both rural peoples as humble, dreamers, and even possessing delusions of grandeur but thoroughly unaware that they are on the wrong side of history; and then, some too concerned with getting by to examine the wider implications or ambivalent to it while others delude themselves or looking forwards to how they are going to get by after the war – when 1945 is described in the newspaper as "Year Zero", Kath grumbles that she has been through at least six new ages –the latter personified primarily by Glockzieh (Otto Henn), another returning WWI soldier ostracized because of his scars and scabs from nerve gas exposure, seen scrounging for food and a sense of importance in a variety of menial roles throughout the years. While the series is narrated by Marie-Goot's unseen son, it is with Glockzieh's death (not Maria's) that the viewer is offered a glimpse into the beyond (an immensely moving sequence that comes just as the viewer may start to feel that the final episode has dragged far beyond its point into the maudlin). The character of Hermann would appear again in 1992's thirteen-episode Heimat 2: Chronicle of a Generation and 2004's six-episode Heimat 3: A Chronicle of Endings and Beginnings essayed in these instances by Henry Arnold, while 2013's Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision (aka Heimat: Chronicle of a Yearning) followed descendants of the Simon branch that emigrated to Brazil in the nineteenth century, and Heimat Fragments: The Women was a feature compiled from used and unused footage from the Heimat trilogy.

Video

Shown theatrically in the United Kingdom through Artificial Eye in 1985 before a number of runs on BBC television – the series went direct to PBS (Public Broadcasting System) television in the United States in 1987 – Heimat was released on DVD in the UK by Tartan Video in 2004 and by Facets Video in the U.S in 2005. Both utilized video masters, but the Facets came from a faded, hazy PAL-converted master of a subtitled print while Tartan's came from a sharper and more colorful master (presumably the same one Kinowelt issued the same year). The series was restored in HD in 2015 and premiered on Blu-ray in Germany from Studio Canal in a five-disc edition with a forty-five minute vintage documentary. Second Sight's limited edition six-disc edition utilizes the same masters for their 1080i50 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen transfers from the original camera negatives, and they look spectacular with the monochrome contrasts as rich as the bold color (looking particularly vibrant next to the muted color schemes of recent films). The image has been reframed at 1.66:1 but the compositions never look unbalanced, and the opening titles and various superimposed texts have been newly-created. Although originally released as an eleven-episode series of uneven length, the presentation here replicates the version shown subsequently with episodes three and four, five and six, seven and eight, as well as the tenth and eleventh each combined into single episodes.

Audio

Although a 5.1 remix was prepared for DCP packages, Second Sight (like Studio Canal in Germany) has favored the original mono track, here in LPCM 2.0 with clear dialogue and a vibrant music track. Forced (but not burned in) English subtitles translate all but some overlapping dialogue, including song lyrics and dialogue from television and films seen within the series.

Extras

A sixth disc includes all of the video extras, starting with "Heimat - The Hunsrück Villages: Stories from the Film Locations" (113:17), Reitz's documentary "prologue" to the series released separately in 1981 – previously included only on Arthaus' 2010 eighteen-disc Heimat Trilogy – which explores the real villages through a photographic exploration of the terrain, as well as interviews with locals that encompass the local lore. An interview with Edgar Reitz (38:39) covers his beginnings as a filmmaker in the sixties, the debts incurred by him on the film he made just before Heimat titled The Tailor from Ulm, and how he wrote the first draft of the series – not just the first series but all three – while snowbound for the winter, and contrasts normal narrative storytelling and epic storytelling. In "Maria's Story: Marita Breuer on Heimat" (11:18), the actress recalls being summoned to the location to sign contracts without even knowing whether she had the role (another actress was in contention) until Reitz decided on the spot. She describes the experience as a rare opportunity to gradually grow into a character. In "Christian Reitz: Restoring Heimat" (17:25), the director's son discusses the process of restoring the film for high definition with federal funding – the series network co-producer WDR was uninterested since they had their own materials for the series – working from an ARRI scan of the original camera negatives, first synching it to a 35mm theatrical print and then to original sound elements, retouching damage, doing color correction, creating 5.1 audio (Reitz assures us that the mix was moderate and attempted to merely emulate mono in six channels without echo or other side effects), and creating HD masters for television, physical media, streaming, as well as DCP packages. In "Showing Not Talking: Jan Harlan on Heimat" (12:16), Harlan recalls seeing the series theatrically in London and on BBC television and how it offered a "valid document" (however subjective) of the German experience to international viewers for whom Germans during the historical period covered were usually written off as Nazis or ex-Nazis. He also relates Stanley Kubrick's reaction to seeing the series, and ties the series' talent for visual storytelling to the works of Kubrick, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Ingmar Bergman. The visual essay by Daniel Bird (8:44) focuses on the use of photography in the series.

Packaging

Not included for review but housed in the case is a fifty-page limited edition soft cover book featuring liner notes by Carmen Gray, "The Collaboration with Gernot Roll" by Edgar Reitz and 'Germany as Memory' by Anton Kaes.

Overall

 


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