Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision

Reviews - Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision

Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision

Reviewed By Ian Payne

Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision
Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision
Many people will remember a BBC2 series in the mid 1980's – Heimat, which captivated its audience with a slowly unfolding tale of life in a German village, Schabbach, from the end of the Great War until the (then) present day . For those who were hooked by that series, the prospect of a 4 hour prequel was something to be savoured. For those taking it on trust that the Film Club had booked a 'good one', it was a gamble but my word, didn't it pay off?

Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision was one of the finest pieces of film making that Keswick Film Club has seen in many years. Director and Screenwriter Edgar Reitz has a wonderful knack of making the audience engage with his characters and with the luxury of time, he can draw you in so that what happens to those characters really matters.

First and foremost, Reitz is a story-teller. Home from Home, set in the Germany of the 1840s, had all the elements, family feuds, religious differences, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, unbearable hardship and the hard working rural poor under the yoke of the ruling classes. Reitz teases these elements out with a masterly touch.

Jakob is the son of the village blacksmith. A young lad with his head full of dreams of South America and its climate, jungle and tribes of Indians, he prefers to lose himself in his books rather than the hard graft of the farm and the smithy. Despite his unworldliness, his tales of far off lands and foreign tongues captivate a local lass and an awkward romance starts to blossom. The return of Jakob's brother from military service, however, triggers events that put paid to all his dreams and schemes.

It is a time of poor weather and poor harvests and for those people eking out a living from the soil, thoughts turn to how things might be better, either through challenging the status quo with the local gentry or the dream of emigrating to Brazil, portrayed as a land of eternal summer and where hard work would bring its just rewards.

The black and white cinematography perfectly captured both grinding poverty and filth of the villages yet at the same time, the sweeping natural beauty of the Hunsrück region, often punctuated with caravans of wagons as family after family started their journey to the new world. The monochrome images were lightened briefly by a few brief glimpses of colour, bright spots in an otherwise dull existence - a gold coin, a wreath of summer flowers, a bedroom wall as a candle is lit and the translucence of a piece of agate.

Fate decrees that Jakob remains in Schabbach as ties of family and the homeland prove stronger than dreams of faraway places and Jakob's learning begins to find a more practical and satisfying purpose.

At a time when the mass migration of people is such a prominent issue, Edgar Reitz's film gave a fascinating insight as to the desperation that triggers the first steps away from Home.

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