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Heimat - A Chronicle of Germany

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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(Aug 30, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Edgar Reitz’s monumental 11-part series Heimat tells the story of Schabbach, a German village in the Hunruck region, from 1919 to 1982. The story unfolds through the eyes of Maria Simon as she marries, raises her sons, and grows old while Germany changes around her. The Simon family, like the rest of the German people, endure the hard times after WWI, struggle with the rise and fall of Nazism and WWII, and then prosper with the rebuilding of the country after the war. Despite the film’s sweeping scope of history, the tone is intimate as Reitz pays attention to the smallest details of daily life--for it is those moment that are the most memorable in retrospect.

Heimat isn't just (just!) a great motion picture--it's one of the richest, most deeply satisfying life-experiences the movies ever afforded. Conceived for West German television and divided into 11 feature-length chapters, Edgar Reitz's film begins in 1919 with the return of a soldier from the Great War to his hometown of Schabbach, in the northwestern corner of Germany, a rural region known as the Hunsrück. It will end some 16 hours (in screen time) and 63 years later, having refracted the history of modern Germany through the experiences of the people--especially, but by no means exclusively, one extended family, the Simons--living in and connected to that village. Not that the film unreels as a didactic history lesson. We come to know intimately dozens of sharply imagined characters whose lives, personalities, and allegiances shift and deepen across a broad expanse of time and event. Reitz and co-writer Peter Steinbach never force these characters into unnatural dramatic or symbolic poses. Some of the most telling truths emerge out of the corner of one's eye, as it were, from the patient accumulation of unobtrusive yet heartbreakingly beautiful detail. Few films have held the particular and the universal in such eloquent equipoise.

To cite just one example: On an evening in 1924, a German-American flyer sets his small plane down in a field near Schabbach. The following day, as he prepares to continue his journey, he invites Paul (the returning warrior) up for a brief spin, and there's an almost metaphysical thrill to the moment: thanks to the new technological wonder of the aeroplane, Paul is about to see his village as no native ever has, and Schabbach is about to be placed in relation to the rest of the universe as it has never been placed before. They take off, and almost immediately, just when we expect a transcendent Big Moment, Paul's attention is diverted from the panorama by the sight of a dark woman wheeling a baby carriage along a country road. He thinks he knows who it is--someone who has caught his imagination and led him to dream of an alternative destiny for himself. Down!, he urges the pilot. Yet returned to home ground, running after the woman as the plane takes off again in the background to disappear forever, he discovers it's not the woman he thought it was after all. And so two Big Moments have slipped away, and life goes ineluctably on.

So does history, though the citizens of Schabbach see very little of History directly. The Führer who seizes the imagination of some and implicates all in his vision remains a voice on the radio, a face in a frame on the wall. Even when one of the Simons visits Berlin as a low-level Nazi Party apparatchik, neither he nor the camera investigates the glow of a torchlight rally outside the window of the room where he makes love to his future wife. By the same token, the America toward which some members of the Simon family yearn is only a carefully memorized and recited postal address and, for one character who does get there, the Statue of Liberty glimpsed through the one pane in a window whose other panes have been blocked.

Heimat means homeland, and the homeland or heartland film was a national genre encouraged by Propaganda Minister Goebbels during the Hitler years (at one point two of the characters in Heimat go to see another movie called Heimat!). Reitz's film, so free of anything resembling melodrama, adopts a plain, unhurried visual approach that could almost be mistaken for documentary; yet it's a subtly stylized experience from beginning to end, with its interlayering of glowing color and pearly monochrome (sometimes within a single scene), epic detachment and discreet intimacy. The storytelling, too, is subtle, true to the rhythms of real life: characters who seem key to the narrative drift out of it never to be seen again, or perhaps to return, all but unrecognizable, years later; other characters who seem minor and incidental may come to assume remarkable significance and poignancy. Throughout, Marita Breuer as Maria, a young, lovely bride who becomes a matriarch by default, limns a character of quiet dignity and authority who remains the heart of the film, and of Schabbach, even after she has passed away. This film constitutes a definition and celebration of the idea of community, of having and sharing a place in the world. And once you've experienced it, lived with it, you'll feel part of its community as well. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

  • Onscreen Introduction by Professor Marc Silberman, University of Wisconsin
  • 32-page Facets Cine-Notes collectible booklet: Heimat: Inside the Chronicle

Product Details

  • Actors: Marita Breuer, Kurt Wagner, Rüdiger Weigang, Eva Maria Schneider, Karin Rasenack
  • Producers: Edgar Reitz, Hans Kwiet, Joachim von Mengershausen
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Facets
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005
  • Run Time: 925 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009ZE944
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,342 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Heimat - A Chronicle of Germany" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Heimat or Homeland tells the history of Germany through the eyes of the extended multi-generational Simon family who hail from the fictional rural village of Schabbach in the Hunsrück.

It is a great TV series, one of the few that can truly be called epic. The original 16 hour long miniseries eventually spawned 2 sequels to form the Heimat Trilogy which runs for a total of 54 hours. This present release is the original 16 hour miniseries now also known as Heimat I, and essentially follows the life of Maria Simon from the age of 17 in the aftermath of the First World War, through the rise of Nazism, the destruction of the Second World War, the rebuilding of Germany and its subsequent prosperity. It spans the years from 1919 to 1982 and ends with the passing of Maria. Filmed in 1984 for German TV, it features over 140 speaking roles and has literally a cast of thousands. Heimats II and III chronicle the life of Maria's son and take us through German reunification and into the new millennium. Throughout it seamlessly marries the epic sweep of history with the personal and intimate lives of its participants.

The original 16 hour Heimat won the FIPRESCI Prize (awarded by the International Federation of Film Critics) at the 1984 Venice Film Festival. Its sequel, the 26 hour long "Die Zweite Heimat" (Heimat II) took home the Special Jubilee Prize at the 1992 Venice Film Festival.

This monumental series certainly deserves a lot better than what Facets Video has provided. The Facets release comes with a soft, blurry picture. Colors are washed out. It is like watching a video tape. The reason is that it was transferred from a Beta cam video source. The picture quality is in short horrendous. To top it off, the large English subtitles are not removable.
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Format: DVD
This is an astonishing piece of filmmaking that becomes more and more absorbing with each successive episode. You can spread the experience over several days or immerse yourself in a Heimat weekend. In either case, you'll likely return to it again and again for years to come. Despite a negative comment from another reviewer, the quality of the newly released DVD is excellent, and the new white-on-black subtitling finally ends those maddening white-on-whites that cause you to miss lines of dialogue.I myself have seen all versions of Heimat: theatrical release, VHS and DVD and this new DVD is by far the best of the three.
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Format: DVD
Facets had previously released Heimat on VHS. I've seen the VHS release, and it's pretty good. Unfortunately for the DVD, it appears Facets simply re-used their VHS master. (I don't know this to be true, but that's certainly how it *looks*. Rumor on the internet seems to be the source was 1" Beta tape; I wonder if this was the same source used for the VHS.) The effect is this DVD has the quality of a bad bootleg: the color is washed out and the picture much, much less than crisp.

Most infuriating: the package says "in German with English subtitles." The subtitles, however, are nothing like "subtitles" in any DVD-sense of the word: they were present on the analog video master -- and sure do appear to be the same titles as the VHS edition. As such, they are *part* of the film and CANNOT BE TURNED OFF. Plus, the titles are white letters on a black field (like closed captioning), so they really obscure a significant portion of the frame. If you understand German this will be especially infuriating; if you don't understand German, these "subtitles" will be less readable than the proper "subtitles" on other DVDs.

Sometimes, it may well be reasonable to release a DVD mastered from a relatively low quality source -- as when high quality sources no longer exist. In this case, though, Facets has no excuse: Tartan released a region 2 DVD of Heimat in the UK (available from which was reportedly beautifully done and with proper DVD subtitles. (There are also German and Dutch editions, but, unfortunately, neither has English-language subtitles.)
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Format: DVD
I was eagerly awaiting Heimat - one of the greatest classics ever. However, the DVD transfer is the worst I have seen. It was like looking through a foggy window. I am not kidding. Rent and see for yourself. Do not buy this version of the DVD and reward the nitwits who released this.

Apparently Region 2 version is better although I haven't ordered it yet.
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Format: DVD
Very compelling story. While a little hard to follow in some places it totally sucked me in, to the point where I desperately wanted to see Volume 2 which just came out in the US & Volume 3, which is currently not available in the US. This is one of my top ten films of all time.

The video quality is AWFUL. This was obviously mastered from a home recorded video tape. Originally, I thought the washed out colors were an artistic decision made by the director, but then I read online reviews that the UK Tartan edition has vivid color. I have purchased the Tartan edition from Amazon.UK. If you have a Multi Region player, I strongly suggest doing that rather then buying this edition. 5 STARS FOR THE FILM, 1 STAR FOR THE DVD TRANSFER.
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Format: DVD
Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (Edgar Reitz, 1984)

For the first few hours of the massive undertaking that is Heimat, I wasn't sure I was going to stick through the whole thing. But as the sheer magnitude of what it was that Reitz was attempting really sank in, I found myself getting more and more absorbed. Then came the final few scenes of the last episode, and while I don't quite agree, I can see why a number of critics call this one of the thousand best movies ever made.

Heimat gives us eighty-odd years of German history as reflected in the life of Maria Simon (The Princess and the Warrior's Marita Breuer), born in 1900, over the course of fifteen and a half hours. (Yes, this is not a movie you will be watching in a single sitting.) We see her, her parents and grandparents, ultimately her descendants, mostly in and around the small village of Schabbach. This is a slice-of-life film whose aim, as the subtitle tells us, is to encapsulate the twentieth-century German experience in one village. There are a huge number of stories to be told, and all of them are given screen time, thought, and sensitivity by Reitz and scriptwriter Peter Steinbach (whose only work outside TV was 2001's Goebbels und Geduldig). As one might expect from any film that runs more than fifteen hours, the pace tends to flag at times, and there will be stretches where the viewer feels the need to not hit the pause button when getting up and making a sandwich. Resist the urge, however, as those times are relatively short, and the film picks back up again quickly in every case. These characters are fascinating, especially when one gets past World War II and into the funky fifties.
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