Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2003 07:51:23 -0000
From: "Ivan Mansley"
To: Multiple recipients of heimat123
Subject: heimat123: Introduction to Heimat Part 1
After watching this episode through from beginning to end without stopping I found that I had written in my notes, "Why does Reitz move me so extraordinarily, because he does?" I will attempt an answer. It is not just that he interweaves so cleverly the history of Germany in these years 1928-1933 with the histories of his individual characters but also that he communicates their "felt life", to coin a phrase. We are made to feel their happinesses, their anxieties, their sense of fun, their aspirations, their forebodings. I could go for ever.
Take the character of Kath, who is central to this episode. She acts as the carrier of tradition from making the Easter eggs for Anton and Ernst at the beginning ["My grandma did this a 100 years ago"] to the making of the fruit[?] poultice at the end for the feverish child, Lotti. She is also the voice of truth. She sees the danger of the Nazis and Hitler. She makes Anton promise not to wear his military style uniform again. She sees the dangers of living on credit, and, lying in bed after a hectic day she utters words which have a chilling resonance: "One day we'll have to pay for all this." But she is also a loving, over-protective mother whose letter to Eduard in Berlin, to be conveyed by the French horsewoman makes us smile at her naivety, but her genuine concern shines through. ["She has the evil eye.don't help her off her horse".] When she smells the bath salts used by this exotic Frenchwoman she is entranced. [ "It smells of the big city. It's how I've always imagined it."]. She is a simple countrywoman and yet it is she who can see what Fritz's arrest in the early hours of the morning [for his Communist sympathies] will mean for others. She is a full human being and she made me cry!!
I seem to remember that Reitz was attacked for not making stronger criticism of the Nazis and the German people's involvement in Hitler's rise to power. I think he handles this difficult theme in a masterful way. We see how people are ashamed of their poverty and Germany's enfeebled state. Wiegand wishes that the French horsewoman could have come at a later time. Glassisch reports on the wealth he has seen in France [Gobelin tapestries, mirrors on the floors]. We see the growing prosperity of Germany, the coming of the telephone to Schabbach, new cars and so on. It is discussed when Kath goes to Bochum [ "postal charges and rents are down.everything's getting cheaper"]. The National Socialist party brought "Bread and work for the German people", as the banner reads. Reitz shows us how good and decent people lent their support. Robert, Pauline's clockmaker husband is not a vicious man and sees that many of the Nazi marchers are "duffers in uniform" but he thinks his Jewish tenant will sell up because "Things are not so rosy for Jews now." Even Maria seems respectful towards the Fuhrer. When Ernst throws Eduard's Nazi cap she says to her little boy: "What if the Fuhrer saw. He sees everything."
The viewer remembers the strange, half-demented ex-soldier at the immigration centre in New York who warns Paul against -Isms, "Mammonism, futurism, Communism, symbolism, expressionism, nihilism, scepticism, Socialism, Zionism, egoism..." The 1930's was a time of ideologies. We see the Nazi at the bar in the brothel [we should notice the link with decadence] boring everyone with his views and quoting Hitler's awful words: "We'll deal ruthlessly with anyone whose opinions differ" and we see that ruthlessness in action with the arrest of Fritz and the words of the policeman bring a chill to the heart of anyone of my age. Fritz will be sent to "a concentration camp for re-education to exorcise that Marxist spirit." His words are meant to be re-assuring!!
There is comedy in this episode. Wiegand, Glassisch , and the inn-keeper trying to talk French is quite endearing. I loved Eduard's plaintive exclamation: "I just wanted to go for a walk." Mathias shaking hands with the city slicker, Lucie, the ex-brothel madam and now wife of Eduard, with his hands covered in dung is a nice moment. We see happiness amongst the villagers. [Maria and the boys carrying on their father's legacy with the radio, Mathias at the window, Eduard and Lucie amongst the beauties of the Hunsruck]. I do not have time in this introduction to deal with the Eduard and Lucie relationship and his time in Berlin. There are many things that can be said about Eduard amongst the prostitutes and we can return to this. City decadence versus rural simplicities. Was a false note struck by the fact that all the whores had hearts of gold? German romanticism? Eduard and Lucie seem happy with each other despite deceptions by both parties. Would someone like to comment on the title of the episode?
I think I have said enough for now!