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Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision (3 stars)

Edgar Reitz's Heimat prequel is a story of 19th century aspiration and struggle

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Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision

The original Homeland (Heimat) was one of the landmarks of European television in the 1980s. Over 16 hours, director Edgar Reitz told the story of three related families in the fictional German village of Schabbach from 1919 to 1982. Sequels followed and the project has become a lifetime's work for Reitz.

Home from Home is a relatively brief, two-part prequel (showing as one near four-hour feature) set in the same village in 1842 and focusing on blacksmith's son Jakob (Jan Dieter Schneider), a book lover whose head is filled with dreams of tearing up his roots and making a new life in Brazil, a country he naively assumes is a paradise on earth.

Home from Home is very much about the ties that bind us to our place of birth and the yearning for something better that can only be found elsewhere. Schabbach here feels a very different village from its previous incarnations. The Napoleonic Wars are within living memory and life is defined by the threat of famine, grinding poverty and the unbearable tyranny of the local aristocracy. It is little wonder that anyone would want to escape.

Deeply embedded in a sense of local community and the familiar rhythms of the changing seasons, the grape harvest and annual festivals, Home from Home evokes the work of Thomas Hardy and the look of photographer Ansel Adams. Luscious monochrome images add majesty to everyday struggles and little touches of colour are effectively used to highlight the ice blue of candle glow, the lustre of a gold coin, or the brown flecks of a wide pupil.

As it charts Jakob's adventures, romantic longing for Henriette (Antonia Bill) and tangled relationship with his brother Gustav (Maximilian Scheidt), Home from Home also feels a more mannered work, tending towards the grotesque, more obviously driven by plot rather than political and historical concerns. Heimat followers will savour a chance to return to the world of Schabbach but others might be less inclined to visit.

Selected release from Fri 17 Apr.

Home from Home – Chronicle of a Vision (Die andere Heimat – Chronik einer Sehnsucht)

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • Germany/France
  • 225 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Edgar Reitz
  • Written by: Edgar Reitz/Gert Heidenreich
  • Cast: Jan Dieter Schneider, Antonia Bill, Maximilian Scheidt
  • UK release: 17 April 2015

The prequel to Reitz's landmark 1980s series Heimat is set in the same German village of Schabbach in 1842, focusing on blacksmith's son Jakob (Schneider), who dreams of making a new life in Brazil. With a real sense of local community and luscious imagery, it's also more plot-driven and mannered.

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