Sunday, 29 August 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 348 - Heimat!

243 - Heimat - 4 stars
Boy this is a hard film to review because this is no film, it's a space station. I jest but there are epics like Ben Hur or Gone With The Wind and then there is Heimat which runs to an incredible 15 and a half hours.
The reason? This isn't really a film but a mini-series. This was the one film on the list that I was the most worried about finding and watching and even had my argument prepared if I didn't manage to see it due to the fact that it was made for television by being split into 11 episodes... but clearly there were enough people out there who considered this such an important "cinematic" event that it reached such a high position on the list.
The only realistic way to watch the entire series whilst keeping up the pace as I neared the finishing line was to watch a episode each day along with another film.
My sceptism faded upon watching the first episode as it soon became apparent that this was indeed a great piece of storytelling.
Set predominantly in the German town on Schabbach and its inhabitants over a period of 60 years, the first episode ends with the discovery of a dead body in the woods and the disappearance of a main character. Real Eastenders type stuff but it hooked me in.
Each episode normally focused on a different character and a different time period, mostly featuring the Simon family and charted the town from before WWII all the way through to 1982.
A fascinating account of life in a small town that slowly sees the ripples of effects from the war and the technological advances of the 20th century.
At times the footage goes from black and white to small sections shot in colour. At first I thought it was due to whatever film stock they had at the time as there seemed no real method to the scenes shot in colour but apparently it was deliberate and as the time progressed through the decades, more and more colour was used until the final episode which was enitrely in colour.
Ah, the final episode. Up until this finale the series had demonstrated excellent storytelling, rich characterisation, top notch acting, blending historical fact with fictional tales, looked at a variety of issues such as the war, underage sex, depression, affairs, etc albeit with slightly more taste than something like Hollyoaks, but unfortunately a lot of the good work done in the previous 14.5 hours was nearly ruined by an ending that would have pleased the writers of Dallas.
One of the main characters Maria Simon died and all the characters returned to Schabbach for her funeral and everything was going well until towards the end when there was a scene in some sort of heavenly waiting room where Maria met all the other residents of the town who had died over the course of the season.
It suddenly went from realistic and believable to the supernatural and fantastical. A completely unnecessary way to end what had been a terrific show up to that point.
That being said, I would heartily recommend this as a great series to watch but would advise about watching it back to back!

Days remaining - 17 Films remaining - 17

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