Almost a decade after making his 16-hour epic Heimat (see yesterday’s post), German director Edgar Reitz followed up with an even more colossal magnum opus – Heimat 2: Chronicle of a Generation, which weighs in at 13 episodes and lasts 25 hours.
First shown in 1992, the second Heimat initially found less favour with critics and audiences than its predecessor, but when BBC2 aired it two years later I was hooked from the start.
What put some other people off, however, was the way Reitz appeared to narrow his focus after the epic sweep of the first series.
Whereas Heimat number one encompassed an entire village and spanned the best part of a century (the years 1919 – 1982), Heimat 2 concentrated on a single decade and a single generation, exploring the lives and loves of a group of friends at university in Munich during the Sixties.
Reitz is exceptionally good at capturing the passionate fervour of youth, showing young people giddy with excitement as they encounter new ideas and experiences, flex their artistic muscles and discover soul mates.
The central figure is Hermann Simon (Henry Arnold), the youngest son of the first series’ village matriarch, Maria. He’s clearly a stand-in for Reitz himself, but is a budding classical composer rather than an embryonic film director.
Hermann plunges into avant-garde musical experimentation, reminiscent of what Cage and Stockhausen were getting up to at the time. His friends, however, don’t confine their radicalism to art, and one ends up in the Baader-Meinhof gang. Hermann, though, mostly stays on the political sidelines, but to find out how his life turns out you’ll have to watch Heimat 3: A Chronicle of Endings and Beginnings.
Heimat: A Chronicle Of Germany & Heimat 2: Chronicle of a Generation are available in DVD box sets from Second Sight.