Heimat Beyond 1945

Although we concluded our unit on Heimat, there are still three more episodes remaining, which cover almost 40 years from the end of the Second World War to 1982. These episodes will remain accessible to you via the Hesburgh Library streaming video service until the end of the semester.  After that, you would have to watch them on DVD in the library’s audio-visual center on the second floor.

As you can imagine, the structure of these episodes is looser than that of some of the ones we watched recently, and they are also longer.  All in all, they most closely resemble the very first episode we watched, which covered the Weimar years.

Episode 9, “Little Hermann” takes place from 1955 to 1956 and shows Maria’s youngest son as a precocious teenager who falls in love with Klärchen, the former girlfriend of his brother Ernst.  Anton, the oldest brother, has meanwhile founded a successful company that produces precision camera lenses.  He rules over the Simon clan like a Biblical patriarch.  When he finds out about Hermann’s affair, he chases Klärchen out of Schabbach.  A lovesick Hermann swears that he will one day leave the Hunsrück and never come back.

Episode 10, “The Proud Years,” is set from 1967-69 and presents portraits of all three of the Simon brothers.  Anton is given the chance to sell his optical company to a multinational conglomerate at great profit, but agonizes over whether to abandon what he has so laboriously built over the last 20 years.  Unlike his father Paul, who has meanwhile sold his Detroit business and retired a millionaire, Anton decides to hold on to what he has, thereby saving jobs in the Hunsrück but also condemning the Simon firm to a gradual slide into irrelevancy.  Ernst, meanwhile, continues to pursue his dreams of flying and stumbles from one unlikely project to the next, always living as an outsider.  Hermann, fulfilling his threat to leave Schabbach, studies music in Munich and becomes an aspiring avant-garde composer.  But he can’t get rid of his Hunsrück background, and true success doesn’t come to him until he records a piece of electronic music (made possible with Paul’s technology) that amplifies and distorts birdsong and other natural sounds from his home.  The residents of Schabbach gather around the radio to hear the piece performed, but only scabby old Glasisch Karl recognizes its significance.

Episode 11, “The Feast of the Living and the Dead” is set in 1982 and focuses on Maria’s funeral, for which the entire family comes together in Schabbach one more time.  In a dream scene, the dead join them as well and there are flashbacks to the most important previous events in the series.

After the success of Heimat, Reitz immediately began work on The Second Heimat, which premiered on German television in 1992.  It focuses on Hermann’s student years in Munich during the 1960s, with each of the 13 episodes devoted to a single year.  The Second Heimat is a series about how people make new homes for themselves in the world, for instance, by forging new friendships in college.  Although the series was a commercial success as well, it reached fewer viewers than the original Heimat, due to the intervening arrival of cable television and probably also its less accessible subject matter.

Heimat 3 premiered in 2004 and follows the further fate of Hermann, now a middle-aged composer and conductor, from 1990 to 2000 as he returns to the Hunsrück to raise children of his own.  At the center of the third series are the tumultuous years that follow the end of the Cold War and German reunification, but there are important sub-themes about globalization, multiculturalism, and Germany’s relationship to its past.

As of 2012, there are rumors that Reitz will produce yet one more Heimat series, ostensibly to be devoted to those branches of the Schabbach families who left for the United States and for Brazil in the late nineteenth century.

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