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on 22 July 2004
'Heimat' must be one of the best series ever made. The story is so believable and realistic, you really can imagine how life may have been in the fictitious village of Schabbach, in the 'Hunsrueck' area of Germany.
The story deals with a number of very difficult issues (World War Two in particular) with great sensitivity, but makes no attempt to 'whitewash' the past. From a historical perspective, the series provides a fascinating insight into the way life must have changed for ordinary people in rural Germany during the twentieth century.
An interesting feature of the series is the use of both colour film and monochrome which takes a while to get used to. The result, however, is very effective, although there are some black and white scenes where colour would be welcome, as the landscape is beautiful and the monochrome fails to do it justice.
It is good news that the DVD is to be released in its original German with English subtitles, as the language used by the inhabitants of the village is mostly the local dialect which, for those who understand it, adds further authenticity to the story.
I am looking forward to seeing this series on DVD. It has been a long wait (it was first shown on British television during the mid 1980's, and may have been repeated once, but not recently). It makes compelling viewing for anyone who enjoys a series which is both thought-provoking and well acted, unlike the ubiquitous soap operas shown on TV these days.
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on 30 July 2005
If I could take one movie to my desert island, this would be it - from the first scene I was entranced.
I played my DVDs through immediately they arrived, even though the showing on BBC 4 had only just finished. I shall replay them once every year as a special event.
Heimat 1 is the story of three generations of three families connected through tradition, at least to start with, and intermarriage. It is set against the background of two World Wars and several crucial technological and socio-economic changes. To a fictional rural village, Schabbach, in the Hunstruck, which has probably been much the same for two or three hundred years, comes photography, radio, telephone, a highway, consumer credit and factory farming. At the beginning the Simons' slate and timber farmhouse is full of people, extended family and neighbours. At the end Maria, the mother, dies alone. In contrast Katharina, the grandmother and blacksmith's wife, lives her traditional life and dies surrounded by her extended family - a perfect fit.
But it wasn't all roses back then. Katharina's younger brother, Glasisch, returns from World War 1 with a skin disease caused by exposure to gas. "Get your scabby fingers away from me" is all his lot, and, although he's central in almost everything that goes on in the village, he's also an outsider and therefore makes the ideal narrator for the film, a detached observer.
There are other literary-type devices, such as the untimely death of Otto, Maria's lover in middle age. He was just too good for the world.
A lovely piece of irony occurs when Edward, the sickly son of the family, has been sent to Berlin to get his lung seen to. His mother, Katharina, is afraid he'll be seduced by a mysterious French woman who's just passed through the village. Instead, he's landed by a brothel madam who has "moved in the highest circles" but nevertheless mistakes Edward for a man of property, all down to a misunderstanding over his Hunsruck dialect.
One of the things that makes the Heimat 1 so riveting is what we aren't told. Why did Paul walk out on his beautiful young wife, Maria, and his two sons? Did Maria and his sister Pauline ever visit him in Florida as they planned late in their lives? What did Maria's revolting brother, Wilfried, die of at 57? Pauline became a business-woman, what in? Why did Paul prefer Hermann, his wife's son by another man, to either of his own boys? What was going to happen to Anton's health and Anton's business? Heimat lives on.
I also loved Nicos Mamangakis's music composed for the film. I got the impression people and/or places had their themes, but this is one for the next time. The sound quality is great.
Music is also a central theme. Hermann becomes a composer. His first work, for orchestra and tape recordings of such disparate things as chain saw and birdsong, doesn't go down at all well in the village hall. Only Glasisch is moved by it. However, at the end of the film, after his mother Maria has been buried, Hermann in chatting with an old-timer in the village cemetery and realises he's forgotten the dialect words for gooseberries, sloes and bilberries. He also discovers that the local disused mine has brilliant acoustic qualities. Out of these elements comes a tonal choral work using dialect words and performed in the mine. This is his tribute to his heimat. Paul, who has become a public benefactor donates the Simon house to the village
"Heimat" is one of those words which won't translate accurately. It means homeland and home in the sense of home and hearth. At the end of the film both Paul and Hermann recognise that in the death of Maria, the woman they both ran away from, they no longer have a home.
Poor Maria reaped the whirlwind Katharina escaped by dying in time. She spends her final years alone, carrying on the traditional crafts, such as making sloe wine that'll probably sit untouched on the shelf, and wishing her son Anton would visit her more. (The other son, Ernst, is busy persuading local people to modernise their houses and selling off the original fittings to do up pubs in Dusseldorf).
One of the things I found most touching was the ease with which people were taken in to the Simon household. Paul marries Maria and she moves in. Kath goes to visit her brother in Bochum and comes home with her niece, Lotti. Anton meets Martha in Hamburg and sends her, pregnant, to his mother to be looked after. At some stage Kath's sister, Marie-Goot, moves in. All these people appear get along quite happily and share the household chores. But when it comes to Klarchen, a former girl friend of Ernst, Maria isn't so pleased, with good reason, as it happens . . . .
If you are shilly-shallying over the price of this set, don't, buy it. It's well presented with an excellent introduction giving a synopsis of each episode, a summary of concurrent historical events, a biography of Edgar Reitz and details of how the film was made and who was in it - handy if you get muddled over the family tree.
The film is visually stunning. It's a family saga, it's socio-economic history, it's about growing up and growing old, it's more than the sum of its parts, it's life in microcosm.
PS. If this helps, I'm 57, a townie and loathe sentimentality.
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on 31 October 2004
Heimat is one of those programmes I've watched that kind of changed my view of life, and made me think a lot about stories, humanity, history, love, family, personal journeys and much more. It is just so beautiful. I love the way each 'episode' is a small film in it's own right and I love the continuity with old characters getting older and being superceded by their offspring and historical context. You really feel like you are living it with them. I shall never forget the episode that introduced Hermann, who would go on to be the main character in Heimat 2. It was so real, so passionate and so erotic too, completely unexpected. I remember walking down the street the next day thinking about it and dreading the series ending. But from that I learned that you must never regret good things happening for fear of them ending, I know that sounds corny but this is how much the series affected me. It is so intelligent but also full of heart and life.
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on 1 April 2006
I got this item when I saw it was nearly half price. DVD quality is superb, and the package as a whole is fantastic. Amazing value. Amazing series. Superb package. Not widescreen. Subtitles are displayed on screen in white text over the picture - they are not intrusive, but can be a little difficult to read as they do not have a black background - which is more intrusive - but more readable.
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on 16 November 2004
This was a complete revelation when we watched it in the 80's. Every episode is as satisfying in its own right as an intelligent film, but the whole builds up to a fascinating portrait of a German family and their friends from the first world war to, as I remember, the 1970s. Don't be put off by the fact that it's in German with English sub-titles, my husband speaks no German but loved every minute. There's lots of warmth and humour as well as drama. Brilliant cast and it looks amazing.
I've been on an internet mailing list for years waiting for this to come out, it will be my present to myself this Christmas.
Essential for anyone interested in the history of the last century, the second half is also very interesting (and sometimes funny) on modern (classical) music.
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on 23 November 2004
A true masterpiece, this is one of the very few films truly capable of changing the most deep seated of views. The problem is however, how does one recommend such a powerful and lengthy film? Certainly it is an extremely complex story simply told, but there is so much strength in its telling that the complexity exists long afterwards mostly in our interpretation and consideration. A must-watch film for several reasons, not the least of which is that you will never forget that it was this film that changed views you thought unchangeable.
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on 7 March 2006
I purchased the Tartan edition of this rather than the German one because of the bad reputation the German edition has for the poor quality of its digital transfer. I wasn't disappointed. The quality of the digital remastering is excellent. That doesn't mean that the edition doesn't have some minor flaws. The packaging is needlessly bulky, clearly designed more for the splash on store shelves than for customers with storage space considerations. More annoyingly, the English subtitles can't be turned off, a thoughtless mastering oversight. To make matters worse, the translations are occasionally quite stupid. E.g. the title of Episode 3, "Eine Weihnacht Wie Noch Nie" is translated as "The Best Christmas Ever". It would be more accurately rendered as "A Christmas Like Never Before". This isn't a matter of simple correctness. The Christmas referred to is that of 1933 and the ambiguity of the German and the correct translation is crucial to the sense of the episode. When all is said and done, however, these are comparatively minor matters, and it is very nice to have such an excellent transfer of this remarkable work on DVD
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When reading a book on German Cinema a few years ago, I came across frequent references to Edgar Reitz's 'Heimat' - which was frequenly cited as a key-work and one that like TV-series 'Holocaust' had a profound effect in West-Germany & their thoughts of the past. 'Heimat' was screened on BBC2 in the 1980s and like Kieslwoski's later 'Dekalog' found an audience who saw it as an event. The two follow-up series, have only cemented its importance. A recent BBC4 documentary on all three series, and the screening of 'Heimat' and its 11-episodes remind you that if anything is a masterpiece, 'Heimat' is...
'Heimat' (Home) deliberately invokes the 'Heimat'-film genre of the earlier Germany (one of these films is seen when Maria visits Pauline & they go to the cinema- the kind of thing Leni Riefenstahl was in prior to making films), and comes from the New German Cinema movement of the 1960s. Reitz was part of that avant-garde movement which began to address problems of West-German/German identity - such works as 'The Tin Drum', 'Das Boot', 'The Marriage of Maria Braun' & 'Germany, Pale Mother' were results of this approach. Reitz own career had become problematic, so he decided to start something afresh and work in TV - a medium that can be extremely rewarding when approached with some verve (something that 'Heimat' proves, that 'Dekalog' proves, that 'The Singing Detective' proves, that 'Twin Peaks' proves...and so on...). Now the idea of family trees is a common one, but at this point these roots of origin weren't as familiar- Reitz looked into his own family past ('Heimat 2' he sees as closer to his own experiences) & created a fictional mirror to that history. Thus we take in the village of Shabbach in the Hunsruck from 1919 (after the First World War) to 1982 (the year in which 'Heimat' was made) - a history of Germany is found here, but from the view of the village and its occupants. And it's also a great family history, which Glassich's introduction to the final episode reminds you - to TV as 'Buddenbrooks' was to literature (both have a dizzying array of characters...)
All eleven-episodes vary in duration - some of the episodes are feature-length (e.g. the final episode, the one centred on Hermann's love-life & his move away from Maria); the contrast of black and white and colour is wonderful too - sometimes working as conventional flashback (e.g. the final episode), at other times reversing that notion. Personally, I like to think that the contrast between film-stocks suggests that the work is not just history and the characters are alive in the now presented- which ties in somewhat with the brilliant closing scenes when the characters we love gaze as ghosts at the present day occupants of Shabbach (a conceit that as another review points out was borrowed for the most popular film of all time, James Cameron's 'Titanic').
'Heimat' is wonderfully acted and completely engaging, a series I could happily watch over and over, and like 'Heimat 2' and 'Heimat 3' is undoubtedly a masterpiece. Imagine if British television could be as ambitious as this (we got close with 'Our Friends in the North'). & as the final episode ends, and we leave the characters amid complications, you already start to miss Maria, Glassich, Otto, Anton, Ernst, Hermann, Lucie, Eduard, Paul, Marie-Goot, Martha et al.
'Heimat' is a fantastic work and deserves to be part of any DVD-collection - it may have been made for TV, but 'Heimat' is as potent as any cinema and should be seen by anyone who loves film, or life ultimately...
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on 15 February 2005
Along with Dekalog, this is the film (or films?)that I would save from the proverbial fire. Reitz gets the pitch of his story spot on, managing to avoid oversentimentality while making sure this isn't just a talking history book. If you thinking of buying this but are put off by the length or the price, take a risk. By the final episode, at the village fair,you'll be wanting to watch it all over again, all fifteen and a half hours, to remember all the characters that have come and go.To remember how it was that these people had arrived here through all those years.
Some may it offensive that the story of the German 20th Century can pass without almost any mention of the Holocaust but Reitz realises that tradegy of that scale would completly overwhelm the film. Here we see how distant all the horror is from Schaubbach, how war was tiring and banal.
One criticism I have would be with the Little Hermann episode. Clearly this character is the director's alter ego and is rather overidealised. He is brillaintly talented and sensitive songwriter and musician who is misunderstood by his old fashioned family. Oh, and,at the age of 16,he is seduced by a beautiful older woman with whom he has a tortured and tragic love affair.
However, this is the only time in the entire running time that it feels as if the story is being manipulated. It doesn't hit another single false note. Make it your one big purchase for a while,make it your one big DVD risk this year because there really isn't another film out there quite like it.
The third part of Heimat was recently premiered on German TV so there's about another thirty five hours to go after you've finished this!
Good luck!
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on 14 December 2004
OK, superlatives won't do. I'm speechless. During the tenth episode, I experienced something akin to vertigo, seeing the whole history of Western Europe and in it also my own being, from a perspective so high I literally almost fainted. I walked around outside all night after the last episode, reflecting intensely about the future direction I want my life, and the world, to move in. This spark, and this sensation, will emerge perhaps only a few times in my life, and this series did it.
You may understand these words more clearly after you have seen it: This DVD collection doesn't contain a mere story. It contains life itself. Of all human arts ever made, this must be close to the top position, if things like that ever can be compared.
This gets my highest recommendation - literally. At the moment of writing, there's no other item on Amazon I'd recommend above it.
And no, I don't usually write stuff like that.
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