After watching Holocaust, a 1978 American four part television series, Edgar Reitz was offended by its overdramatism and success. The New German cinema movement had just started, German filmmakers were finally coming to terms and speaking about their recent dark past, and so Reitz decided to write a series based on his own experiences from living in a small town. The result – a script with 2000 pages – was picked by television producers (the recent success of Berlin Alexanderplatz opened the doors to series sagas) and Heimat – 11 episodes, 16 hours – made television history.
From 1919 to 1982, Heimat follows the saga of the Simon family, starting with the return of Paul Simon from the (First) Great War, and ending with the death of his wife Maria (Marita Breuer) during the Cold War. In the middle, History makes its mark in the common people, taking young men away, raising some families and destroying others, while Progress slowly creeps into the small village of Schabbach. Paul disappears one day, leaving his wife and two sons, Anton and Ernst, behind; a decade later, Maria finds love with Otto, the highway engineer, and thus is Hermann born; Otto dies, Paul – now a rich American businessman, reappears after the War. Anton and Ernst grow up and become very different men; Hermann falls in love for the first time with the wrong person, and leaves the small town mentality behind by pursuing an artistic career in Munich.
Five years in the making, Heimat is unique – the way it portrays rural life and the slow passage of time and how it shows the little nothings that make life in a village bearable; how it films nature, and famously alternates between black & white and colour to denote feelings, change of mood, or simply evoque past days; its themes and constant symbolism (the fleeing or flying away); and yet, nothing is as impressive as to how a 80s tv series still manages to captivate modern audiences. To see how the characters grow, change with their experiences, and relate to each other makes you extremely invested in this story – and you will be apologised if you reach for the tissue box during the last episode.
This new box-set is restored from the original negative and comes filled with extras, from Reitz “prologue” to Heimat, interviews with the actors, and many more. A must watch and re-watch.
Heimat: Limited Box Set will be available on Blu-ray on 30th April 2018, courtesy of Second Sight.