Heimat

Edgar Reitz’s 15<4-hour film is an attempt to restore a sense of continuity to 20th-century German history by presenting 63 years, from 1919 to 1982, in the life of Schabbach, a small village in the Hunsruck region. The chief characters are the members of the Simon familythe grandfather is a blacksmith, the grandson will be the founder of a precision optical companyand the shape of the plot is dictated by the century’s constantly changing economic and political conditions, driving some members of the family to emigrate, others to form alliances with the Nazis, others to find prosperity in the postwar economic miracle. Reitz avoids the ceremonial eventsbirths, deaths, marriagesthat usually punctuate this sort of family chronicle, concentrating instead on the textures of daily existence and the shifting relationships among the characters. Though not without its longueurs (the treatment of the 50s, for example, is largely limited to an extremely conventional tale of adolescent frustration and romantic revolt) and marked by a rising nostalgia for the good old days as opposed to the debased present, Reitz’s project stands as a monumental act of imagination, teeming with evocative incident and Proustian detail. (JR)

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