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


Schabbach, a village in the Hunsrück region of Western Germany, 1840. Jakob Simon is a young man who yearns to leave his small home village and travel, especially to the South American countries he reads about in books. His father Johann (Rüdiger Kriese) wants none of this foolishness and sets him to work, but Jakob is sustained by his love of his mother Margarethe (Marita Breuer), who is ailing from lung disease. Jakob's older brother Gustav (Maximilian Scheidt) returns from war and the two brothers compete for the love of Jettchen (Antonia Bill)...

In Edgar Reitz's Heimat films, comprising three television serials and now two cinema films, the word itself means several things: the English translation of "homeland" doesn't quite cover it. It is the place where you are born, where your roots are, but it is also a place you leave to make your way in the world, and also the home you make there, with your loved ones and your friends. The German title of the present film - Die andere Heimat: Chronik einer Sehnsucht - translates as The Other Heimat. The first Heimat serial, released in 1984, ended its first episode, "The Call of Faraway Places", with Paul Simon, newly married to Maria Wiegand, walking down the long road away from the village and not returning until years later. In Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision, three quarters of a century before the start of that serial, Paul's ancestor Jakob also hears his own call of faraway places.

The three serials were made for television but were given releases as extra-long cinema films, of fifteen and a half, twenty-six and eleven hours. Home from Home, a German/French coproduction (though with dialogue entirely in German), is made for the big screen, and not in the distinctly reduced circumstances Heimat Fragments: The Women, a pendant to the three serials made up of deleted scenes from them plus new material, was made in. Running just under four hours, and shot in Scope unlike its predecessors, Home from Home shares its predecessors' epic sweep. But it depends on its characters, all finely drawn and impeccably acted, and its observation of this vanished way of village life. The pace is leisurely, but the film has the effortless pull of the best drama.

Reuniting with Reitz is cinematographer Gernot Roll, who had photographed the whole of the first series and the opening five episodes of the second, setting the template followed by the late Gerard Vandenberg, Thomas Mauch and the director's son Christian Reitz. Part of this is the trademark mixing of colour and black and white, which Reitz used in different ways in each serial. In the first, black and white was for the most part the baseline reality, but individual shots were in colour for emphasis, and one suspects largely intuitive. Two of the eleven episodes reversed the pattern, being mainly in colour with certain sequences in black and white. In Heimat 2, after a colour prologue where Hermann Simon leaves Schabbach for Munich, the serial generally settles into a pattern of black and white for daytime scenes and colour for nighttime. For the third serial, the black and white material was almost all in the first half, with Reitz filming scenes in the former East Germany in monochrome as if to emphasise that it is a country which now no longer exists. However, Home from Home is different again. The film is black and white throughout, with colour used to highlight particular objects: a horseshoe hot from the smithy, a gold coin, a German flag, and even the appearance of the Great Comet of 1843, one of the most spectacular and brightest comets of the last few centuries. As with the three previous serials, the use of spot colours has the effect of making them more vivid against the prevailing monochrome. The production design by Anton Gerg and Hucky Hornberger is another plus. Of the cast, Marita Breuer, who played Maria in the first serial from the ages of nineteen to eighty-two, is the major returnee from the previous films, playing her character's ancestor by marriage. However, look in the end credits and you will find Salome Kammer, who played Clarissa, Hermann's sometime lover and later second wife in the second and third serials, listed as an assistant director. Late on, there's a brief guest appearance from Werner Herzog.

After Heimat 3 in 2004, Reitz was seventy-two and there were questions if he would ever make another Heimat film, given the difficulty he had in making it and the reduced circumstances he made Heimat Fragments: The Women in two years later. Now, seven years after that, those questions will be asked again, given that Reitz is five months short of eighty-three as I write this. But with Home from Home he has made a continuation of the saga that is worthy of it.


The Disc

Artificial Eye have released Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision on DVD and Blu-ray. It was the former which was received for review, an edition encoded for Region 2 only. The film is spread over two discs (97:33 and 123:49), breaking at the intermission point, though unlike the cinema version there isn't an intermission card, just music playing for a few seconds over a black screen.

As they were made for television, the first two serials were shot in 35mm in the old Academy Ratio of 1.37:1. The third, also 35mm-originated but now in the widescreen television era, was 1.78:1 on DVD, though 1.66:1 in the cinema when I saw it. Heimat Fragments combined colour and black and white deleted scenes (those from the first two series reframed into 1.78:1 on DVD) with new footage shot on colour digital video. Nine years on, we're now in the age of high-definition digital cinema, and Home from Home was digitally captured on the Arri Alexa, with anamorphic lenses. It was shown in the cinema in 2.40:1 and that's the ratio on this DVD release, widescreen-enhanced. There really isn't much to be said for this: as a new film existing in the digital realm from shooting via cinema to disc release, you'd expect it to look pristine, and it does, as well as it can in standard definition: the Alexa captures at 2.8K and my cinema viewing was of a 4K DCP. Several of the most noteworthy recent black and white films of recent years were captured on the Alexa: as well as this one, there were Nebraska and Ida and Home from Home shares with those a fine eye for detail, especially in the detailed production design.

The soundtrack comes in two mixes, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround (2.0). There's little to choose between them. Both are clear and well balanced. There are quite a few uses of directional sound and the subwoofer comes into use for drums during a couple of village dances and with gunshots in another scene. English subtitles are optional, though they don't translate the book Jakob is reading from in the first scene (nor did the cinema version). There is the occasional typo, such as "keep in the peace" for "keeping the peace", forty-seven minutes in.

The only extra is on Disc One: the trailer, which runs 2:21.

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