Friday, March 17, 2006

Heimat (episode 1)

Heimat is sort of the German equivalent of the 1980s series Roots. It is a 16-hour series following a family from 1919 to 1980 in a small village, Schabbach, near the French/German border. Episode 1 opens as Paul Simon, the eldest son of the Simon family, is returning home from WWI. He walks 6 days from France and we see him as he comes over the rise and sees home, "heimat". Heimat is a word that that encompasses all those warm feelings of home, tradition, and land associated with families that live in one place, esp. one village or farm, for generation upon generation -- i.e. not something that is so common in the U.S. anymore.

We watch Paul as he tries to reassimilate into village and family life. The sense of watching a dream or a memory is very strong in this series. Much of the filming is in black-and-white, but when the memory is particularly strong, color fades in. Paul falls in love, but with a woman who is a bit of an outsider in the village. Perhaps the attraction is that he too feels like an outsider even though he is an insider. She leaves; he stays. In the end he marries Maria, the daughter of the village mayor, and they have 2 sons. Then one day, he just leaves. He walks out the door and doesn't look back. Episode 1 is thus sets the background for the next 5 episodes, where we follow the now single-mother Maria as she raises her sons through tumultuous 30s and 40s, followed by decades of rapid societal change through the 50s,60s and 70s.

This was the first episode for me, and I won't be able to judge what I think until I'm farther in. Even so, I can say that this is not a series for everyone. It's a must see for modern European history buffs, those interested in or living in Germany, and WWII history buffs, but if you are not interested in any of those things, it's hard for me to imagine why you would watch this. Personally, I'm very interested in the roots of WWII and in the different societal and political forces that have shaped the European versus American world-view, so it's fascinating for me although the filming style seems a bit more artsy than necessary.

Heimat episodes 2 & 3

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