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"Heimat - Eine deutsche Chronik"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany" More at IMDbPro »"Heimat - Eine deutsche Chronik" (original title)

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77 out of 79 people found the following review useful:

The last great melodrama?

10/10
Author: Darragh O' Donoghue (hitch1899_@hotmail.com) from Dublin, Ireland
22 September 1999

How do I begin to extol this extraordinary film, of which it can truly be said 'all life is here'. I hadn't seen HEIMAT since I was seventeen, and was thrilled to discover that it was every bit as enthralling and rich as I'd remembered, a whole other world to lose myself in. First things first: YOU MUST WATCH THIS FILM. I know that sounds a little peremptory - hey, we haven't even met - but believe me, after nearly 16 - oh yes - hours, you'll be wanting me to bear your children for having offered you this advice. Or something. It may not change your life as it did mine - this was my first experience of what would become my cinematic obsession, the melodrama - but I wouldn't bet on it.

Don't be put off by its length - it was made for TV and so can be watched as such, an episode a week. After a couple of programmes, though, I guaranteee that will not be enough. And yet it's one of those films you never EVER want to end. If that's not enough, the sequel is even better.

So what is HEIMAT? Nothing less than the story of 20th century German history, told through the experiences of a small village, and one family in particular. But this is not a weighty history lesson. Every major event takes place off-screen - we experience their repercussions on a people remote from them in terms of time and space. The saga is a satisfying feast on the level of a novel-sequence by Powell or Proust - a varied dramatis personae, precise detail, anecdote, incident, communities, generation struggles, local and national crises, social comedy (I hadn't remembered how funny it was), domestic and national tragedy; each episode is packed with these, building up accumalitively a quiet, yet inexorable, power.

'Heimat' means both 'home' and 'homeland', and was also a type of film encouraged by the Nazis, espousing reactionary (no!) sentiments tinged with bucolic utopia. Therefore, although we will be introduced to hundreds of disparate characters, it is appropriate that the main character, and the first image of such a massive document, is the land. Outside of the Archers and King Vidor, you will not see a greater cinematic sympathy with nature, such a feeling for its texture and spirit, such a recognition of it as a marker of human history, as an inhuman constant in a world heading for nihilism, as a quiet, immemorial force thast looks on at, and yet is indifferenct to, a human comedy that becomes steadily unfunny.

The first episode is, in its quiet way, a manifesto of how the film intends to proceed. For all its smooth technical surface, this is a film seething with disjunction, comprised of layers and levels that refuse to cohere in the village's dream of community, continuity and order. As in all great melodramas, this confusion is an apt formal representation of its main character's state of mind.

This protagonist is Paul Simon, who begins the episode walking back from a French prisoner-of-war camp and ends it leaving his wife, child, family, community, past, tradition. He returns from the war into an unchanging quiet village world which could have existed at any time over the last few centuries. Indeed, it's almost as if he is some sort of Prince from fairy tale, returned to awake the enchanted sleeping inhabitants, because life suddenly flourishes in its own way.

The community's rhythm is one of slow circularity - his first sight of his father is of him forging a wheel; the circularity of his plot. And yet all has changed. Most of the men have died in the war - all that are left are invalids, idiots, strange young boys and crusty old codgers.

This is a film so rich, despite its narrative concerns, in detail, image and symbol, that I won't succumb to interpretive hubris. But that initial impression of disjunction lingers. Paul's first action is to urinate; we cut to a shot of a barren, pest-ridden fly-paper, a disgusting image of the entrapment and sterility on offer here. The fly plays a very important symbolic role in this episode, as do all kinds of images of flight - kites, planes.

Paul operates on a different level from his mundane family and neighbours - his world is that of dreams, hope, visions, ideas, fantasy. His pursuit of science and invention - progress - contrasts with the circular harvesting of the men. I used to wonder why the film would alternate between colour and monochrome. I don't think there's a systematic explanation for it - not only does the colour change, but the film stock itself does too - this surface instability in a seemingly gliding technique perfectly mirrors the torment in the mind of a superficially placid man, and makes his seemingly capricious departure more explicable.

The main disjunction in HEIMAT, of course, is that between the characters in the film and us, the viewers. We know what is going to hapen in the future, and this heavily colours a seemingly frivolous portrait of rural life. A huge pig chases away geese, a naked woman - 'probably a Jewess' mutters a witness - is found dead in the forest; a marten breaks into the shed and kills the hens: none of these incidents are remarkable on a narrative level, but create a terrifying sense of foreboding of the horrors we know are to come. There is a little Hitler lord mayor; a hugely comic unveiling ceremony in which the risible words of a puffed-up local dignitary are eerily similar to those that will be used with deadly seriousness by the Nazis; the almost pranklike attack on Jewish political dissidents; the harrassment and ostricising of an amazingly hardworking woman, ostensibly because she slept with an enemy officer, but really because she looks like a gypsy - all these serve to darken a seeming idyll, show that the seeds of Nazism were already truly in place; and you have to try very hard not to slip into disgust, and play 'spot who'll become a Nazi'.

The biggest disturbance of all comes in the plot of the lead character. The first two hours of this film are told largely through the point of view of Paul - both narratively and formally. And yet he ups and leaves, and there are still 14 hours to go. Itr gradually becomes apparent that it is his wife, Maria, who will become the saga's pivotal figure. Now the film becomes a different kind of melodrama, but this was announced from the beginning. While all the men were out japing like kids, the women were trapped behind windows, doing all the hard work, denied the privilege of escape offered Paul.

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57 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece

Author: Tabarnouche from Sonar Sound
26 October 1999

I can only echo the preceding comments: See this film. I would add some ifs, however: See this film if you appreciate good direction, consistently solid acting, and discriminating characterizations; if you savour cultural subtleties; if you find 20th-century European history fascinating; if you think the dynamics of community life have much to tell about the human condition; if you've ever wondered what it meant to be German in the 1920s, '30s, & '40s (although the film covers 1919-1982); if you can't quite understand how Nazism could have gained acceptance and then pre-eminence in a northern German village far removed from Berlin and full of the usual diverse personalities; if you want to put a human face on the monolithic histories about war and propaganda; and if your attention span is longer than that required by the average Hollywood production (the film runs to something like 16 hours, in 9 videocassettes).

Heimat is a superb cinematic chronicle of social and political change in human enterprise, a Bildungsroman of a community. You will not forget it.

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41 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Simply superb

10/10
Author: Roelof Ruules from Utrecht, the Netherlands
24 December 2004

What can one say? This is what (television) drama should be. I saw the first Heimat when it was broadcast in the Netherlands in 1985, shortly after it was released in Germany. I was stunned. It seems that every decade one or two television productions excel, and this was without a shred of a doubt the eighties' highlight. When the second Heimat was shown on Dutch television in two marathon sessions (it runs for over 25 hours in all) I sort of locked myself in, and never regretted it.

I cannot begin to describe what Heimat is about. It's an epos. It's European history of the twentieth century on a small scale, literally. It's 'roman fleuve' and yet it's not. It's your family, that sometimes you wished wasn't there (and for good reasons) and then you're glad to meet again. It's all the human frailty and without the excuses. It *is* the human condition. And it only helps that it is beautifully shot, that the actors put on a superb show, that the music at times is haunting.

Now, on the verge of having the third series shown on TV, the first Heimat is finally available on DVD (with the other two series promised for the next few months). And although I saw most of it about twenty years ago, it is like coming home again and meeting your boyhood friends, those favourite aunts, that dear old uncle - what was wrong with him, again?

If you are looking for action, a thrilling plot, romance in a grand manner, wonderful CGI, and be done before dinner, don't look at Heimat. But if your willing to submerge yourself, to be engulfed by a very good story, to get really, I mean really, well acquainted with characters - well, I'm not in for commercial breaks, but go out and get it!

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33 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

No work of art has influenced me more

10/10
Author: S. Bloke mj233@cam.ac.uk. from Cambridge, England
28 August 1999

Seeing this film, or rather set of films, in my early teens irrevocably changed my idea of the possibilities of human interaction and the range of potential experience. This monumental exploration of individuals, and their historical setting, reveals how full bodied and intense every human existence is. The people are portrayed as they are to themselves: their experiences of the smallest to the largest internal and external phenomena are detailed with the greatest of artistry and perception. Edgar Reitz displays a fabulous appreciation of human motivations and longings.

When these phenomena are set against the immense time allowed by the length of the work, one cannot help but apprehend the force and vivacity of happiness, defeat, lust, love, sadness, melancholy, that each person feels. When I saw these films I perceived my future experiences, how my life would inevitably twist and oscillate due to both intended and accidental events. I acquired a feeling of the longevity of being and what it meant to reflect upon past lives, memories and contexts. A masterpiece and a revelation. I only wish the BBC would screen it again.

If anyone knows where I can get a copy, could they contact me

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23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

A perfect merger of film and television

10/10
Author: Max_cinefilo89 from Italy
4 December 2006

Recounting the lives of the inhabitants of a German village from 1919 to 1982, Edgar Reitz's epic miniseries Heimat- A Chronicle of Germany is a stunning showcase of film-making at its finest, a fifteen-hour masterpiece, unequaled in European cinema.

The story begins with Paul Simon's return to Schabbach, the village where he was born, at the end of World War I. The conflict has left its marks on him, but no one notices this until it's too late: the first episode ends with Paul leaving Schabbach in 1928, without telling anyone.

We will subsequently learn he has become a successful businessman in America, although this aspect of the plot is covered sparingly, the director being more interested in the Scabbach community, where life revolves around Paul's wife, Maria (Marita Breuer). She is the heart and soul of these eleven episodes, watching her sons grow up, her in-laws get old and the world change radically: over the course of fifty-four years, she will witness war, poverty, family crises and much more, always trying to remain calm and controlled.

Reitz's brilliance lies partly in the story he tells (the history of an entire nation seen through the eyes of common people), but most of all in the means he employs to tell it: on the surface, Heimat looks like an ordinary TV miniseries, but in fact the director delivers a fifteen-hour art-house film, as testified by the techniques used to bring the story to life: what mainstream television product would feature so many black and white/color transitions (dictated by emotional reasons, rather than narrative), ambiguous characters (especially Maria, whose increasingly cold behavior has a devastating effect on her son Hermann, as we will see in Heimat 2), unconventional themes (adultery and sexual initiation were still taboos on the small screen in 1984) and bizarre fantasy sequences (one might even be entitled to think Reitz began the TV revolution given US form by David Lynch's work on Twin Peaks)? And let's not forget the unreliable narrator (every episode is introduced by Glasisch, the village fool), who makes the viewer unable to interpret the Heimat cycle in only one way. I also have to point out that the title is ironic: the people portrayed in these episodes struggle to find a home-country (that's what "heimat" means, although the translation doesn't fully live up to the significance that word has in German), but are destined to fail on one level or another: they can only find a temporary home, which will eventually vanish along with them.

For all the reasons listed above, Heimat deserves to be seen: those wondering if there still is a difference (in terms of quality, if not even success) between big and small screen really ought to give this intense opus a look.

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21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Best ever TV

10/10
Author: thomas-467 from United Kingdom
17 April 2005

Like most other people who saw the series so many years ago,It has remained vividly in my mind,and was a very welcome release on DVD. Although the entire cast were excellent,the performance of Marita Breuer as Maria was outstanding.An amazing, and thoroughly convincing portrayal of the phases of one womans lifetime.With so many strong characters appearing through the story,her magnetism is all the more remarkable. Now we have the wonderful news that HEIMAT 2 will be released in May,with HEIMAT 3 following in August.Can't wait. HEIMAT has to the best piece of sustained drama ever to appear on the small screen.Why can't British TV produce programmes of this calibre? The Singing Detective from the BBC remains the only thing approaching it for quality.

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15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

the best

10/10
Author: Frank Blaakmeer from the Hague, the Netherlands
2 July 2007

Heimat is one of the best works of art of the twentieth century. Period. That is really all there is to be said. But the format of these comments forces me to write a minimum of ten lines. Well, lets just say that never before in film there has been as successful an amalgam of epic and lyric qualities. The TV-series depict the troubled history of Germany by focusing on a small community and a handful of families. As the show unfolds they become our family. Also: In art the profound and the entertaining seldom go together. In Heimat they do. Be amazed and cry. Still not enough lines. I have nothing more to say. Heimat is the ultimate television masterpiece.

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A summary of anxiety's,hopes and joy of life of German youth in the 1960's

9/10
Author: kristen skullerud (kskuller@tiscalinet.it) from Rome, Italy
15 August 1999

Absolutely, I agree with my previous commentator in describing this as a riveting,fascinating and certainly beautiful film. It's not necessary to see all the episodes,since the first ones are the best,while the last ones are a-bit tiresome,but for any person who likes German's and their good-natured ways,all episodes are worth seeing.In typical german fashion, values are constantly questioned,even it's murderous Nazi past is confronted in the last episodes, the rich dialogues are particularly interesting. These episodes are recommended for anyone who is about to live or travel in Germany,preferably in original language!!

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Heimat - as time goes by

8/10
Author: tom-hellemans from Belgium
8 September 2007

You can only appreciate this series if you like the German tradition of very slowly moving, but brilliant novels, like 'the magic mountain' (der Zauberberg) by Thomas Mann. Don't expect any form of action: it's real life, looked at through the eyes of real people, and there's no heroism, just life and the things it does to all of us. I had the habit of watching at least one or two episodes each week in winter, and I think this is the way to enjoy the series; watching the whole thing in - let's say - one week, would ruin it and make it boring. The way music is integrated in the series, and even becomes a theme in the second series, often triggered something; it's like Marcel Proust's 'a la recherche du temps perdu': the emotions shown, the feeling of time moving on and never coming back and history being written without you being able to change a single thing doesn't make you happy, but gives you a mild feeling of accepting things just the way they are.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Would like to see it again.

10/10
Author: jleegram from Manchester, England
15 December 2003

Excellent historical/drama series. The depiction of how the residents of a small German village become embroiled in the rise of Nazism is fascinating. Long overdue for re-showing on British television, particularly in view of new UK history channel available on freeview. Last shown by BBC with subtitles several years ago. Sadly now only available on video from Germany (no english subtitles obviously.)

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