After making his 42 hour-long epic film saga ‘Heimat’, German director Edgar Reitz still has much to say about his homeland. In ‘Home from Home’, the 82-year-old returns to the first instalment’s fictional Rhineland community of Schabbach in the 1840s to investigate the roots of a Germany yet to be born. If you’ve seen ‘Heimat’ you’ll spot masses of connections. Yet this standalone four-hour mini epic – shot in black-and-white widescreen – also makes a great starting-point.
As a family’s clever son obsesses about the fortunes awaiting him in Brazil, straining against rural bonds of kinship, Reitz’s genius is knowing exactly what detail to select. We get intimately involved with his characters’ everyday struggles, yet also grasp the bigger picture of economic hardship and a cruel feudal system that fuels the desire for freedom and emigration.
To see the wagons rolling out of the Rhineland is a potent image for today – a counterblast to the contentious subject of migration in today’s Europe. That immediate relevance deepens the film’s rich fresco of historical insight and immersive drama. This is a magnificent, career-capping achievement from one of the great storytellers of our era.