The German Film Awards, the Lolas, were presented in Berlin last night, and there were essentially two big winners. Edgar Reitz‘s Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision (Die andere Heimat: Chronik einer Sehnsucht), which we’ll come back to in a moment because it’s the most interesting of the bunch, won Best Film (Gold) as well as awards for direction and its screenplay, which Reitz wrote with Gert Heidenreich.
Andreas Prochaska’s The Dark Valley (Das finstere Tal) has come away with eight Lolas: Best Film (Silver), Cinematography (Thomas Kiennast), Supporting Actor (Tobias Moretti), Set Design (Claus Rudolf Amler), Costumes (Natascha Curtius-Hoss), Makeup (Helene Lang and Roman Braunhofer), Music (Matthias Weber) and Sound Design (Dietmar Zuson, Christof Ebhardt and Tschangis Chahrokh). “The hills are alive with the sound of gunfire in this alpine revenge drama, a superior genre piece which applies classic western tropes to a remote Austrian mountain village in the late 19th century,” wrote Stephen Dalton in the Hollywood Reporter last fall. “Based on a 2010 best-seller by Thomas Willmann, The Dark Valley is a visually sumptuous spectacle with solid action and horror elements. But at almost two hours, the plot plods and creaks, sticking too safely within genre conventions.”
As THR‘s Scott Roxborough notes in his fine report on the awards, Two Lives (Zwei Leben), “a Stasi drama from Georg Maas, which was Germany’s official (unsuccessful) candidate for this year’s foreign language Oscar, took the third-place Bronze Lola. The film also won the best editing Lola for Hansjorg Weissbrich.” Roxborough has a full list of and notes on all the winners, but here, just two more. First, “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery, Arne Birkenstock’s portrait of the notorious art forger Wolfgang Beltrachhi responsible for the biggest art forgery scandal of the postwar era, won the Lola for best documentary.” And while I haven’t seen Finsterworld, I’m always glad to see Sandra Hüller (Best Supporting Actress) win anything.
Until 1984, there were four world-famous German directors,” wrote Carole Angier for Sight & Sound in 1991: “Fassbinder, Herzog, Schlöndorff and Wenders. Then suddenly there was a fifth: Edgar Reitz, maker of Heimat. The others (apart from Fassbinder always uncategorizable) secured their international reputations by making international films, often with international stars, and increasingly abroad. Reitz has stayed in Germany; Heimat stayed in the small provincial corner of it where he was born, and used unknown actors, amateurs and local people. It didn’t so much take a few Germans out into the world as bring the whole world into Germany—which is precisely what it showed the twentieth-century history of its fictional village to be.”
“At 53 hours and 25 minutes, it was already the longest series of feature-length films in cinema history,” wrote Philip Oltermann for the Guardian on the eve of the German theatrical run for the 225-minute prequel, Home from Home:
Heimat, which loosely translates as “home” or “homeland,” premiered on German television in 1984 and followed the life of the Simon family in the fictional village of Schabbach in the Hunsrück area of the Rhineland. Having set out to write one feature-length film, Reitz produced 11 interlocking screenplays, depicting village life from the end of the first world war to 1982….
Then came the sequels: a second part, released in 1992, zoomed in on one of the Simon sons who ran away to Munich’s avant garde art scene; the third series took the viewer from the fall of the Berlin wall to the start of the new millennium. Die Andere Heimat goes back 150 years to explore one of the lesser-known dark chapters in German history: the years leading up to the 1848 revolutions.
“The utopia here,” writes Notebook editor Daniel Kasman, “is Brazil. Set in 1844 in a rural German countryside beset by poor harvests, erratic weather, and slow motion recovery from the Napoleonic wars, the region if not the country is also suffering depopulation from hopeful emigration to a far away new world…. Reitz’s inky-black, hyper-sharp digital cinemascope images make Home from Home at once grossly expansive and frighteningly intimate. It is a triumph of scale for a film for which the inner world of dreams and the outer world of practical facts must be equally contained in the cinematic image.”
“Reitz’s sense of composition is often striking,” writes Boyd van Hoeij in THR, “with especially the landscapes with its placid rivers, abundant vineyards and solitary cherry trees lending the day-to-day activities of the poor characters an appropriate grandeur that suggests each single being has its role in the epic of their own lives. By contrast, the austere and dilapidated interiors of the late production designer Tony Gerg offer a grim visual reminder of the abject poverty of rural Prussia in the mid-1800s that was a direct cause of the mass emigration to other shores.” Oh, and: “Werner Herzog has an amusing if somewhat distracting cameo as well-known naturalist, linguist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt.”