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Archive for July 6th, 2017

by Adam Ferenz

In the opinion of this reviewer, this is the best German film post-World War Two. It also deserves to be ranked much higher, but that is neither here nor there. Arguments can be made about Berlin Alexanderplatz, or Our Hitler, but where the later film sometimes skirts apologizing for Hitler’s actions, this series, from writer and director Edgar Reitz, takes a different view of things. Both are controversial works, this one because of accusations of ignoring or golden-aging the Nazi years. This is untrue, because what we are presented with as viewers is the story of a town, as it happened and as they saw things.

This approach allows us to understand how sinister Nazism was because of how it slowly crept into the lives of the townfolk and became normalized. We see that this town has both those with open hearts and those who were, because of German culture at the time, and the events of the Great War, predisposed to being influenced by or enamored of, Nazi ideology. We have moments like the mayor’s son, an SS officer, telling his family what a burden it is on his men to send Jews “up the chimney” not because they feel awful about killing people or Jews, but because of the strain it puts on them to clean up and coordinate the exterminations. Such scenes are juxtaposed with one featuring Lucie, who marries into the main family, being more than willing to politic her way up the ladder of society while conducting business with a Jewish bank, stating to her husband “they are human, too” which causes him a look of concern.

Ultimately, the Nazis are a ghost that looms over the story but does not define it. Maria, the closest the series comes to a heroine, takes a half-Jewish man as her lover and finds herself horrified by the symbols and realities of the Nazi cult of death. Instead, what does define Heimat is the story of how the Simon family lives through the events of the Twentieth Century.

We begin with Paul Simon, who comes home after WW1 to his Hunsruck town of Schabbach, and finds himself unattached to his family and friends. He dreams of radio, of wires and electronics, wealth and is pulled away, though it takes several years. He meets a woman, has children with her and one day, he goes out for a beer and vanishes. We see him at Ellis Island. He has gone to America, and left behind his wife, Maria and two sons, Anton and Ernst. He will not return to Germany for nearly a quarter century. (more…)

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