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Involving, Clever - but Ultimately Just A Top Quality "Soap"?
on 11 July 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Heimat but have to say that it struck me as similar to a soap opera - 'The Forsyth Saga' (original version) perhaps being a UK equivalent. The story is essentially that of the strong women of the Simon family in their small German town - from the Matriach Katharina and her blacksmith husband Mathias and their children, weakly son Eduard, Paul whose return from the front opens episode one to Pauline their daughter who works with her parents. Add to the mix the discarded wife Maria, fun loving Berliner Lucie (who will stop at nothing to boost the career prospects of her less than ambitious husband Eduard) and the slap dash but well meaning Lotti and you have a cast worthy of the early years of Coronation Street.
The men are important too and we see the war through their eyes - with a chance of romance for Maria when road builder Otto comes into her life. Her sons, Anton and Ernst are chalk and cheese which becomes more obvious as they mature. Later child Herman is adored by Maria but he will bring her heartbreak in his teens with a tragic romance. Ernst has a devil may care attitude which continues after his Luftwaffe days are over, whereas Anton, who married the lovely Martha by proxy whilst in Russia, is the thoughtful son determined to bring jobs to the area when he finaly gets home in 1946.
The choice to shoot some scenes in colour adds to the drama, particularly during the war years and seeing the boys who play happily with kites, gliders and radios in episode 1 mature into Hitler Youth and in one case an SS officer is chilling.
We follow the Simon family from 1919 to the 1980's and their personal lives and business ventures are interesting and involving. Maria was born in 1900 so we know her age at the start of each episode. This is an enjoyable series but I perhaps expected something more 'dramatic' than essentially domestic life. Having said that, in the final episode the death of Maria is portrayed in such a way that it is like losing a member of your own family.
It is possible that the fond memories of this series stem from it being one of the first subtitled European dramas to be broadcast on British TV - quite a risk by the channel owners.
One to rent from your local dvd shop rather than buy perhaps?