The Second Heimat

Reportedly the longest single film ever made, Edgar Reitz’s 13-part, nearly 26-hour “chronicle of a generation” (1992)–set in Munich during the 60s and only nominally a sequel to his 15-hour Heimat (1984)–mainly focuses on the experiences of one young man, a classical musician and composer named Hermann Simon (Henry Arnold) who moves from the small village of Shabbach (where Heimat was set) to find a new life and, echoing the title, a second home. Alternating masterfully between black and white and color, Reitz conveys a novelistic sweep as he deals with artistic and romantic ferment in 1960 and ’61 in the first two episodes, “The Time of the First Songs” and “Two Strange Eyes.” Among the other major characters are the hero’s best friend, a Chilean musician; a beautiful cellist they’re both drawn to; a lonely female law student; a couple of ambitious filmmakers; a jazz drummer; a crazed landlady and former singer; and two avant-garde composers. Reitz’s feeling for period and milieu are so good and his characters so rich and appealing one feels one could climb inside this movie and stay a long, long while. On the basis of the four hours I’ve seen so far, I suspect The Second Heimat offers the most comprehensive and persuasive grasp of the experience of the 60s we have on film, with the possible exception of Jacques Rivette’s nearly 13-hour Out 1, which has never been shown in the U.S. And these two episodes offer a bracing cross-reference to the current Backbeat, set in Hamburg at the same time. Definitely check this out. All 13 parts will be shown this week in a four-day marathon starting Thursday with an introduction by UIC’s Claudia Becker; they will be repeated, sequentially, Thursdays and Sundays May 5 through 29. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, April 28, 6:00 (“The Time of the First Songs”) and 8:30 (“Two Strange Eyes”), 443-3737.

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