11 December 2006 | MaxBorg89
26 hours of cinematic excellence
In 1984, Edgar Reitz surprised film-lovers all over the world with his epic opus Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany. Eight years later, he came up with a sequel, The Second Heimat: Chronicle of a Youth, which is even more astounding than its predecessor.
Actually, it's not really a sequel. It's more of a "midquel", as it covers events that took place between the ninth and eleventh episode of the first Heimat cycle.
The Second Heimat begins in 1960, four years after Hermann Simon (Henry Arnold) was separated from his first love, Klarchen, courtesy of his intolerant mother and elder brother (the controversy had to do with him being a minor, while she was about 25). Still angered by those events, the young man vows never to fall in love again (a grandiose, if creepy scene), and decides to move to Munich (like the director himself did in approximately the same period), hoping to become a professional composer after a few years spent at the music academy. He stays in Munich for ten years, and the thirteen two-hour episodes of Heimat 2 cover that time-frame, each of them focusing on a different person among Hermann's fellow students, people who, like him, are searching for a "second home country", be it music, film or something else, in which they can finally live peacefully.
Like the first Heimat, this second cycle is a perfect union of film and television: the episodic structure and the various romantic subplots make it look like a soap opera, in fact The Second Heimat needs to be seen in its entirety to be successfully embraced, whereas some chapters of Heimat 1 could be viewed as separate stories (in particular, the one concerning Hermann's teenage years). The style and content, however, is pure auteur cinema, with the familiar black and white/color transitions (actually, a tad more predictable this time around) and ambiguous characters, the latter element being underlined by the relationship between Hermann and cello player Clarissa Lichtblau (Salome Kammer): they clearly love each other, yet they keep embarking on affairs with other people, delaying the inevitable until it's too late. This time, Reitz seems to be more pessimistic regarding his characters ( at one point, Hermann is so disillusioned he says: "The Beatles are much better than us!"), building entire episodes around dark, controversial themes such as abortion and suicide. The decade he's exploring is not suitable for everyone, as some are scarred in dramatic ways by the pivotal events of the '60s (the '68 revolution especially).
Reitz also seems to have made this mini-series specifically for movie-buffs, given the numerous film references (including a brilliant Casablanca quote) and clever in-jokes (one episode is set in Venice, whose film festival had an important part in the Heimat saga's success). And since 1992, film-lovers have never ceased to thank him for delivering 26 of the most compelling hours ever committed to celluloid.