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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

RATING: 10/10
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 severe blow.

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 lives.

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.
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