3 Heimat 1 Reitz

Heimat enthralled me back in the 80's when it first came out with its fly on the wall feel for the first three quarters of the twentieth century through the lives of three families in the area between the rivers Mosel and Rhine.  Memories do play tricks on one however.  I was sure that I'd seen it all-on viewing the whole 15 hours in a DVD box set I realize now that I only saw bits of it, probably on borrowed video tapes.   Watching the episodes over the last week was an ethereal experience with the only constants, Maria, the family home and the Hunsrück landscape with its waving corn and stark beauty, sometimes in colour and sometimes in black and white.

I'm not suggesting that teachers would show the whole of the series to a class but certainly parts of it would be useful I'm sure particularly at A level to look at the family, festivals and a raft of other themes.    For those studying Der Vorleser, the illicit relationship between Hermann and Klärchen would be an interesting comparison with Michael and Hanna if a bit long at more than two hours.

My main recommendation would be that viewing the entire series would be useful for anyone wishing to gain an insight into the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of German character, diverse as they are.  What is like to move into a system governed by the Nazis from the inside?   How do different people react to this? The sight of the grandmother castigating her SS grandson Wilfried constantly throughout the war for his unwillingness to fight is truly amusing and, one hopes, not revisionist in any way.   The fact that Wilfried is capable of true brutality however casts a darker atmosphere over the war time episodes as does his reference to the Holocaust.

The more I look back on the series, the more the improvement in communications and gradual move towards globalisation and Americanisation seems a key theme.   From halting efforts by Paul to put together a radio and be the first to connect a backward village to the outside world, through the propaganda phone call made to the Russian front the series of films smoothly demonstrates a century of "progress".    The same pertains for the roads which change from mud tracks to small, tarmacked country roads, alongside the motorway built  through the area from Koblenz to Trier.

Certain things jar about the series but these are relatively minor.  People seem to age at very differing rates and the skills required to make people look older were relatively ineffective back in the 80's.  Maybe it would have been too much to have Marita Breuer with a  prosthetic face for months on end in any case!   People disappear from the scene with little explanation, although arguably that is like life.  Reitz dwells on certain scenes for a considerable amount of time in quasi-documentary fashion-this is a strength and weakness depending on how interested you are in say watching a catholic Christmas service being reenacted.  

It is quite amusing to see the way Reitz mimics reality by leaving in naturalistic happenings such as a fly hovering over the protagonists or the teacher who reprimands Hermann breaking wind as he leans against some railings.   Surely that would have been an outtake that Reitz thought would seem natural to include.

The sad and amazing thing is that the Hunsrück is now becoming one of the most deprived and forgotten areas of Germany.  Far from welcoming coach parties in the style of "Heart Beat" country in North Yorkshire, it is in steep decline with house prices very low.  

There are now sequels and prequels to the original Heimat adding up to over 50 hours of television so if you become addicted to the series you have plenty to go at.