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Heimat 2: Chronicle Of A Generation |
cast: Henry Arnold, Salome Kammer, Daniel Smith, and Armin Fuchs
director: Edgar Reitz
1530 minutes (15) 1992
Tartan DVD Region 0 retail
reviewed by Kara Kellar Bell
The original series of Heimat (1984) was shot over two years and centred on
the German village of Schabbach from 1919 to 1982. At its centre was the character
of 17-year-old Maria and her family. Characters got older; some died, and new generations
were born and grew up amidst the rise of Nazism, the Second World War, and reconstruction.
Heimat 2: Chronicle Of A Generation covers the years 1960 to 1970, and follows
one of the younger generation, Hermann (Henry Arnold), who travels to Munich to study
music and composition at the Conservatory. At 16, he swore never to love again after
his affair with a woman 12 years his senior was discovered. But in Munich he becomes
smitten with Clarissa Lichtblau (Salome Kammer), a cellist. On his first day at the
Conservatory, Hermann meets many of the characters that will make up the main cast of
this complicated series. Some are fellow musicians or composers, but there are also
filmmakers, and later, writers and actors. Many of these artists are involved in the
avant-garde in their various disciplines. As Hermann discovers, these young people
spend a great deal of time at a large mansion known as Foxholes. The house is owned
by the daughter of a publisher, who acts as a kind of patron. A Jewish family once
owned the property, and the publishing family had some hand in their fate.
Nazism, war, and the Holocaust are things from which this younger generation of Germans
cannot escape. Initially they seem disgusted or disinterested in the Nazis, but history,
particularly on the personal level, catches up with them.
Each of the 13 episodes focuses on a different character in the group, while the story
of Hermann and the others continues to thread through. The series is a complicated
tapestry of personal stories, expertly woven together. Characters fall in and out of
love, and friends sometimes fall in love with the same people. In the background, contemporary
events play out - one episode follows all the characters on the day John F. Kennedy was
assassinated. The golden days at Foxholes eventually come to an end, and the group of
friends begin to break up, following their different paths. Some continue in the arts,
but more often than not their idealistic dreams of what they will achieve are dealt a
Politics threads through, as characters become involved in left wing agitation against
the Federal authorities. One character ends up in the Baader-Meinhoff gang, a notorious
West German terrorist outfit. But if some characters fail to realise their dreams, others
become more liberated - specifically the women, since feminism also impacts on their
Shot in colour and black and white, with beautiful imagery - especially in the Venetian
episode - Heimat 2 also has an incredible musical soundtrack. Earlier on, while
Hermann is still playing the guitar, there are wonderful guitar sequences. Piano, cello
and vocal representations of the New Music also feature. There are concerts and strange
avant-garde performances. Pop music doesn't seem to enter the lives of these characters
until Hermann becomes involved with a woman he grew up with. She gives him a Beatles'
record to put on. Otherwise, the soundtrack is classical, discordant at times.
The inclusion of filmmaking helps to drive this series. One character, a screenwriter,
believes that the important things in life are invisible - love, what people think and
feel, death - and that these cannot be captured on film. And yet Edgar Reitz, the creator
of Heimat, manages to do just that. Characters occasionally narrate thoughts and
feelings in an unobtrusive way, and the use of extended takes helps the viewer to see
inside their heads and hearts. There are also dream-like scenes from time to time, taking
the series beyond realism.
Henry Arnold is completely convincing as Hermann, and is backed up by a terrific cast,
especially Salome Kammer as Clarissa. Costumes, hairstyles, and interiors all perfectly
capture the era. The Heimat trilogy is regarded as one of the greatest pieces of
drama in television history, and other series pale in comparison. Heimat has drama, romance,
tragedy, mystery, and marries the personal with the political. As a chronicle of modern
German history, it's a must-see, putting the facts of history into perspective, grounding
horror, tragedy, and the shadows of the past, in the day to day lives of its characters.
By the end of the last episode of Heimat 2, the viewer will long to go back to
the beginning, and relive the early days, the all night parties at Foxholes, a time
when the characters were still gathered together. A time of possibility, when a generation
believed it could leave behind the crimes of the past and bring a new kind of music and
filmmaking to the world.