Thursday, June 12, 2014

Die andere Heimat – Chronik einer Sehnsucht / Home from Home - Chronicle of a Vision

Country & year: Germany / France, 2013
Director: Edgar Reitz
Screenplay: Edgar Reitz, Gert Heidenreich
Cinematography: Gernot Roll
Editing: Uwe Klimmeck
Set Design: Anton Gerg, Hucky Hornberger
Costumes: Esther Amuser
Sound: Philippe Welsh, Daniel Dietenberger, Vincent Demortain
Music: Michael Riessler
Cast: Jan Dieter Schneider, Antonia Bill, Maximilian Scheidt, Marita Breuer, Rüdiger Kriese, Philine Lembeck, Mélanie Fouché
Production: Edgar Reitz Film, Les Films du Losange, ARD Degeto Film, BR, WDR, arte Geie
Producer: Christian Reitz
Language: German
Duration: 225 min
    Black and white in scope. Werner Herzog als Alexander von Humboldt
    2K DCP viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), 12 June 2014

Timo Malmi (Midnight Sun Film Festival Catalogue 2014): "Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany was a beloved TV series also in Finland. Its progenitor Edgar Reitz has once more (at over 80 years of age!) returned to the village of Schabbach in Hunsrück, however this time with a wonderful, over-4-hour-long film intended for the big screen."

"Home from Home “does not offer just a sort of a prehistory for three television epics but proves to be the sum of all of Reitz’s artistic production”, Olaf Möller (Filmihullu 5/2013) writes, continuing that the film “is set in the early 1840s when the establishment of a state called Germany was finally becoming a reality – when millions broke away from their home conditions in order to detach themselves from oppression, exploitation and sometimes immense poverty.”"

"The main group of characters consists of the family of blacksmith Johann (of the familiar Simon family), and the most central person is brainy Jakob who dreams of moving to Brazil. Jakob falls in love with Jettchen who wavers between him and his more practical brother, blacksmith Gustav. “The panorama of leaving and staying becomes wider: waterfalls of colour appear in the wonderfully pretty black-and-white picture. Reitz has a sometimes delicate, sometimes barbarically flamboyant ability to tell the story through grand scenes and insanely huge elliptical condensations; he has the desire and the madness to be swept away by dreams and visions as well as delve into the agrarian culture and the details of mud or cracks in the wood,” Möller praises." (TM)

"EDGAR REITZ was born in Hunsrück in 1932. He studied various art subjects in Munich and participated actively in different fields of culture. Starting in early 1950s he made several short films, was a member of the Oberhausen group and one of the essential names of the new wave of German cinema, which started in 1962. His first feature film Table for Love was awarded at the Venice Film Festival in 1967. Since then he has made numerous feature-length drama films, documentaries and experimental films. Reitz has also taught film studies and written books on film aesthetics and theory. With its several filmed sequels, the TV series Heimat constitutes the core of Reitz’s unique input to German cinema." (Midnight Sun Film Festival Catalogue 2014)

The magnificent Heimat prequel of Edgar Reitz has been called the best German film in years, and I can believe that, although I have not seen enough new German films myself.

It starts in 1842. The most prominent recurrent image is of wagons of emigrants moving in the horizon. Feudalism has not yet disappeared, Rheinland is not a land of freedom, and Brazil, among other countries, is seductive. The original title means "the other homeland", which can mean something concrete (like Brazil), or something transcendent.

The concept of Die andere Heimat is cinematic, not televisual. There are splendid vistas, majestic camera movements, a sense of space. Hawks patrol the skies, and there is a hawk-eye sense in the movie. We see the hills and the meadows and the rafts on the Rhein. The composition is noble and stark, made for the screen. The camera is liable to fly over the treetops to cover the wonderful landscape.

Die andere Heimat is a true epic, covering great social movements such as rebelling against the baron's wine selling privileges, and a great communal Smearcase Fair dance. We see the horrible prison conditions of the rebels.

There is also a story of mismatched loves: the two girls and the two boys do not get the ones they should. Once off guard Henriette surrenders to the wrong guy, and nothing can change the course of life ever since.

There is a strand of technology, of learning to build and operate a steam engine.

There is a strand of medicine: the old mother getting suffocated and being taken to the hills for sun and air. She has a vision of all the six children she has lost.

Devastating weather with snowstorms brings famine and death, and is a final boost to a mass emigration to those who have survived.

Like our native Finnish Elias Lönnrot, Jakob is fond of reading books in trees. The self-taught Jakob has an insight of "the common secret of language", and his discoveries are acknowledged by Alexander von Humboldt (Werner Herzog in a memorable cameo).

The music is constantly interesting.

The excellent cinematography is in black and white and scope, with selected details in red tint and occasionally in other colours.

The digital look is really brilliant, yet somehow the DCP impression is like a landscape after the explosion of a neutron bomb or the moonscape (where there is no atmosphere).

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