Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 06:57:48 -0000
From: "Ivan Mansley"
To: Multiple recipients of heimat123
Subject: heimat123: Introduction to Heimat Part 1

HEIMAT Part 1. FERNWEH [ The Call of Faraway Places 1919-1928 ]

My video tapes had not been touched since their original recording over 17 years ago. Would the film be alright? No need to worry! There was the familiar pounding music as Edgar Reitz's epic began to unfurl before my eyes. I quickly came to realise that the tapes have lasted much better than my memory. I had forgotten most of the detail but the story quickly captured me.

Much has been made, I think, of Reitz's ability to recreate and convince us of the reality of his scenes through the accumulation of small detail. And it was all there in the depiction of the Simon household, Schabbach and the Hunsruck region.the particularity of things.the hunk of bread, the bucket, the cart-wheel, women watching in doorways. What struck me even more, however, was the use of symbols and for want of a better word the use of surrealism. For instance, the apparition of the dead soldier by the fire that Paul Simon sees and no one else does. It speaks to him: " Hello Paul. See my white robe. I have a white robe like an angel. All soldiers go to heaven and get a white robe." Wishful thinking! What Paul Simon would like to believe? How did fellow viewers interpret this? It certainly conveyed to me, in a way that realism could not, the horrors and strangeness that Paul had experienced whilst fighting as a soldier, which set him apart from his family and the life back home. Who was the apparition? The angel of death? He had some very reassuring words, however. " Down on earth as you all know there's high and low German but in heaven, as you'd expect they speak the Hunsruck dialect." The comforts of heimat for eternity. As for symbols consider the fly paper and the release of the fly?? The most vivid symbol is surely the trap set for the pine-marten at the end of the episode. The camera focuses on it as it lies in the puddle and the credits roll over it. Is the notion of "heimat" the trap which has ensnared Paul Simon but from which he escapes responding to the call of faraway places? There is much to say about this, I think. Notice the framing of the episode. At the beginning a man walks into a the end he walks out of it. A lone man. An enigma! We are no more prepared for this than his family and the other characters. Or are we? Viewers should consider the huge emphasis Reitz gives to the effect of the 1914-18 War on his characters, the village, the nation. Count them up. Consider the use of colour and its significance or lack of it. One of the things I had forgotten is Reitz's habit of juxtaposing scenes of near farce with very moving scenes of great intensity. For instance, Eduard's scheme to unveil the memorial is treated comically in a sense and is then followed by the sight of the baker from Simmern , driven mad by grief for the loss of his 3 sons in the war. The central and most important scene for me was the meeting between Appollonia and Paul in the Rhineland town and her challenge to him never to return to Schabbach. He is unable to break free as yet. There is much in the dialogue which focuses all the themes of this episode. [ Armand "was so far away from home". " I am 20 now. Must I pay for ever because there was a war." " You came back 3 years ago , but you still aren't at home here." " It's an evil village. Like all the evil villages out there." A magnificent sequence which I found profoundly moving , far surpassing the soap-opera-like elements and almost completely forgotten by me.

I hope my words will get you all watching and even more important discussing what you have seen. Please feel free to disagree with me but do it gently. My background was the teaching of literature but I am not an academic nor do I know much about the technicalities of film making and the film industry. If you feel like introducing an episode please let me know. I have had no volunteers yet but I live in hope! Anyway happy viewing.

Ivan Mansley.