There was no way I was going to see the whole of the Heimat series when it was broadcast on British television back in the 80s. However, when given a box set of DVDs as a gift, I had the opportunity to watch the whole series on my own timetable. I thought I would break it up to make it manageable but, instead, I made my way through it in about a week. As there were eleven episodes with a combined running time of 15 hours and 24 minutes, this shows how important it was to me.
The conceit is a good one: the story of a family in a village in the west of Germany from the end of the first world war to 1982, which was more or less up to date at the time of making. The Simon family provided the spine to the series with other families of the village also showing how Germans experienced the 20th Century.
Maria Simon lives in the village of Schabbach for her whole life and we see modern German history through her eyes. The fact that her husband, Paul, abandons her after his return from the First World War affects everything for her ever after. The strands of history sometimes invade and sometimes pass over this family. This may be one of the criticisms of the series, that major events that are hard to ignore when assessing the history of the nation are ignored here. However, the series does not claim to be the definitive history of Germany but the story of a family.
This was a project of film- maker, Edgar Reitz. He did not stop with this first series and neither did I!
‘Heimat’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?