Date: Fri, 14 May 2004 08:12:30 +0100
From: "Ivan Mansley" <email@example.com>
DIE ZWEITE HEIMAT: A NEW GENERATION
PART 3: JEALOUSY AND PRIDE, EVELYNE, 1961
The episode begins with a funeral. As the mourners walk over the brow of the hill we notice Elisabeth Cerphal and Gerold Gattinger at the head of the procession. A young woman, whom we have not seen before, is left standing alone in the road. She slowly turns and heads back to the cemetery. All funerals seem to contain within them elements of drama. This is no exception. The ending of the episode, however, contains elements of slapstick, with the young film-makers rushing around Munich plastering everything and everyone with the slogan, "Papa's Kino ist tot". As an ending it left me distinctly unimpressed. On the other hand, the episode seemed rather low key for the first third or so, until the arrival of Hermann for the film showing, and the first coming together of Ansgar and Evelyne, and then, after that, there were numerous sequences, where my eyes filled with tears of recognition and delight at the complexity, truth and intensity of the relationships depicted.
Although Edgar Reitz provides all the necessary evidence for his viewers, I found it hard going to work out exactly the family connections of the Cerphals and the identity of Evelyne, our lone young woman on the road. Of course, Evelyne is in search of her own identity, after discovering on the night before her father's funeral, that the woman she has always called her mother was not her real mother. We are not told who informed her of the truth. Her quest to find out all she can about her real mother, and through this, her search for her own identity, provides one of the important threads of the episode. Later, after finding the place where she might have been conceived, she sums it up thus: "I sought my mother, I found myself. I sought myself, I found Ansgar."
There are two love stories at the centre of this episode; firstly, the one between Hermann and Clarissa, with entanglements provided by Juan and Helga, the poetess, and secondly, the infatuation of Eveyne and Ansgar, who first of all has to get rid of the actress, Olga. Let us begin with Evelyne and Ansgar. It is love at first voice!! Gisela Muller, the actress who plays Evelyne, has the most incredible face. It is square and masculine. In the darkness of the library she describes herself as ugly, in response to Ansgar's mocking description of himself as "small and ugly", whereas, in fact, he is tall and handsome. And yet, when Evelyne smiles, her face becomes wreathed in beauty and tenderness. She also has the most fantastic singing and speaking voice! When Ansgar hears her speak out of the darkness, he exclaims, "What a voice!" It is deep and gruff and very sexy! Ansgar is captivated. Later, when she sings the words of Helga's poems and Hermann's "Rain Songs", a crowd gathers and she finishes to wild applause.
In many ways Ansgar and Evelyne are opposites and they seem to represent two different ways of looking at the world. Ansgar is a man transformed by love. In the earlier part of the episode he is rude, coarse and overbearing. He is incredibly rude and arrogant in his questioning of Herr Gattinger. He browbeats and abuses Olga, his supposed girl-friend, and is the source of her unhappiness. He is consumed by hatred. He hates his parents and unsuccessfully tries to forget them. He declares at one point, "I'm ashamed of them". He tells Evelyne, when she asks about Olga, that he hates Olga: "I hate her. I touch her, I use her body but I hate her." Evelyne, on the other hand, has had a happy childhood. We see her packing her dolls and teddy bears, as she is about to leave Neuburg. She loved her father dearly; he was her friend and confidant. Frau Ries likes her instantly, and Evelyne respects her. "Frau Ries had cradled my father. She held all the emotions of the past. She was the villa's memory." Ansgar is transformed by his love for her; transformed utterly. He helps her in her search for her mother's sister and becomes far more human. Reitz seems to be saying, in effect, "Look at the transforming power of love". Nonetheless, Evelyne and Ansgar are in many respects polar opposites. This is beautifully illustrated when Ansgar threatens to cut an earthworm he has found into four pieces. Evelyne prevents him. Ansgar tells her that her parents are dead and being eaten by worms, and that he is like an earthworm in that he just exists. Evelyne is having none of it. She tells him that her parents are alive in memory, that they are "almost more alive than we are", that she was "conceived in love",
and that "If I say I love it's like a memory". Ansgar has literally tried to erase the memory of his parents by burning all the possessions they had given him and tries to expunge his past completely. His words about his parents reveal, however, that he has failed. He cannot forget their "renunciations" and hypocrisies, as he calls them. Reitz conveys to us that the past will not be expunged, whatever efforts we make.
Let us now turn to Hermann and Clarissa. It is these two lovers who give the episode its title. After their encounter on her apartment stairs, Clarissa writes to Hermann and begins with these words, "To hell with your jealousy and my false pride". There are the words of the title! However, this is not the full story. Clarissa has shown her jealousy also, as she watches Hermann with Helga. She has made Hermann jealous by dallying with Juan. One notes that she tears a strip off the bottom of the letter and writes only "I love you". I think it was only that which was posted. Reitz makes us aware also that her letter was only addressed to Mr. Hermann Simon, Munich. I take it that it would probably not be delivered with such a non-specific address. Did you notice?
When Hermann arrives at Fuchsbau, Frau Cerphal's villa, he finds Clarissa lying head down on stone steps in the company of Juan. There is some by-play about him missing a date and about the non-appearance of his cello concerto. After the showing of the students' film Hermann joins Juan and Clarissa. There is some unpleasantness. Juan accuses him of interrupting and calls Hermann a "long-eared arse" or was it the other way round? Clarissa calls them both fools and walks off. Juan claims to have wooed Clarissa successfully with his Spanish songs. This jealousy surfaces again when Hermann and Clarissa practice his cello concerto. She provokes it by asking if he has heard from Juan. He replies that he [Juan] is probably still there eavesdropping!! They are interrupted by Stefan, Reinhardt and Helga who have been to the cinema. When Helga starts to pay Hermann some attention Clarissa clearly resents her as a possible rival and runs off. "Suddenly there was a tangle", comments Hermann as they part, with no definite future meeting arranged. Jealousy is alive in their relationship.
Perhaps my two favourite scenes in the episode are the scene in the library between Ansgar and Evelyne and the scene between Clarissa and Hermann on the stairs of her apartment. When he realises there is someone else in the room, Ansgar lies on the floor by the bed, and the room is lit by moonlight with the shadows of leaves moving to and fro. There is a strange kind of chiaroscuro effect. Olga, in distress, had told Reinhardt and Ansgar that she had seen their silhouettes as if "They were behind glass or under water". Well this is how this scene looked, and there is a further point which I noticed. Olga, as mentioned before, is utterly distressed because of Ansgar's behaviour towards her. When she tells Ansgar that she loves him, he retorts that she is lying. Then she sees through a window, with what appears to be rain running down the glass pane, Evelyne singing, but it is not raining! She is crying and the water depicts her tears. Significantly, Evelyne is singing the line, "Rain's been running through the roses". As Hermann accompanies Evelyne on the guitar, Clarissa stares meaningfully at him and then we see Clarissa's face staring in from the wet window. This idea/symbol of glass and water is continued, and thus, in turn, Clarissa's distress is also revealed.
Compared with Ansgar Hermann is gentle and passive, but his encounter with Clarissa, on the stairs of her apartment, is not only passionate but almost violent. Their desire for each other overcomes all prudence,and penetration appears to take place, only for it to be interrupted by a neighbour, an old man, who comes down the stairs and escorts Hermann off the premises. Hermann had gone to her apartment to deliver a letter of love, in which he shows great understanding of himself. He had written, "I seek you and keep running away from you". The letter is not delivered, because he cannot find the right place to put it, and it drops from his grasp and falls down the stairwell as the lights come on and Clarissa is seen ascending. She never reads it, just as Hermann never receives hers, if I am right! The tension and excitement of this scene, as well as the eroticism, held me in its grasp.
What else can I draw your attention to? There are some Shakespearian echoes. Renate, looking quite beautiful, on this moonlit evening, gives a rendering from the balcony scene of "Romeo and Juliet" and Herr Gattinger joins in from the balcony. Whatever else this enigmatic, mysterious character is, he obviously is a man of some education for he does this entirely from memory. Renate receives a kiss from Reinhardt but then he apologises for doing so. Our hostess, Frau Cerphal, gradually gets drunk as the evening wears on and repeatedly tells different students, "In such a night as this you must fight for love/happiness". In Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" two young lovers comment upon the enchantment of a moonlit night after they have eloped together:
"The moon shines bright. In such a night as this.
Troilus methinks mounted the Trojan walls
And sighed his soul towards the Grecian tents
Where Cressid lay that night.
In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea banks, and waft her love
To come again to Carthage."
Reitz would appear to know his Shakespeare. "On some enchanted evening, you will see a stranger" as the song goes. There are some pointers to future plot developments e.g. Reinhardt's acquisition of a real Winchester rifle as a prop and significantly, I thought, Ansgar's balancing act with a glass of red wine on his right foot. The camera made much of this. Edgar Reitz obviously finds great interest in all the cinematic references. I wonder if the audience is as interested as he is! I was rather bored by Rob, Stefan and Reinhardt's film or what we saw of it. There is a constant thread of how the new generation view their elders. What did they do in the war? Were they members of the SS? I suppose this must have been a very common feeling at the time, although one hopes not all were as rude as Ansgar to Gerold Gattinger! We see Hermann's delight in the sound of words put to music, partly under Helga's influence. This is shown in "Heimat" when he puts words of Hunsrück dialect to music which is performed in the mine. There is a long sequence, where the word "cat" is picked up and stored. I noted the specific title of the book Herr Gattinger was reading and which Helga is looking at. I do not know it, but apparently it was a sensation, when it was first published in 1959, so Gattinger is very up to date in his reading. It deals with Jewish persecution from 1105 in England to the Holocaust. There is a mysterious [for the moment] thread concerning Uncle Goldblaum, an orthodox Jew, who was the one time partner of Elisabeth Cerphal's father. "We got him out." Is there a suggestion of a double meaning?
I have written myself out now! Remember the word "pride" in the title? Clarissa accuses herself of false pride but there are numerous examples of real pride e.g. Frau Ries in her devoted service to her supposed superiors, Evelyne in her dead mother, and so on. Here is a rich mine in which to delve!