Figure 1.-- This is a German television series from the mid-1980s, Heimat 1". This was not one of the classic Heimat tear jearkers. It covered a period from the 1920s through the 1980s. The more modern productions were more sophisticated and less formualistic.
The best known Heimat films today are those made during the 1950s. These are perhaps the classic examples of this genre. They began to becopme more serious in the 1960s as German film making began to make better financed films and the public became more sophisticated. There is a considerable tradition of Heimat films in German film making. There were Heimat films and TV shows made in the 1990s, but almost always they were set in the past.
Some Heimat films were made in Imperial Germany during the War. We know little about the film industry during the Imperial era. Of course, movies only began to be made after the turn of the 20th century, and were relatively primitive until the 1910s. An example of a Heimat film made in the imperial era was "Schandfleck" (1917).
Heimat films seem to have been made in the Weimar Republic after World War I (1914-18). These films are not well known as many are silent films. Sound films only began to appear in the late 1920s. An example is "Geierwally" (1921). Leni Riefenstahl made one of the best Weimar Heimat films, "Das blaue Licht" (1932) (The Blue Light), before she turned to NAZI propaganda.
I do not know if Heimat films were made during the NAZI era. the NAZIs has soft spot for rural Germany. Hitler in Mein Kampf discusses the German farmer as the core of the country's strength. The whole idea to acquire Lebesraum was to acquire more farmland. The generally positive, uplifting themes in classic Heimat films, however, seems alien to the NAZI outlook. Perhaps some were made during the NAZI era. Hopefully our German readers will tell us. A Dutch reader tells us, "Many Heimat films were made during the Third Reich and they were shown in movie theaters in all German-occupied countries (in the Netherlands in German with Dutch sub-titles). As a teenager (I was 11 when the Germans invaded Holland) I saw quite a few at that time, because there was no other entertainment, except sports (soccer). However, many Dutch citizens refused to enter a movie theater to see films made by the enemy.
It is interesting that some of the most popular actors in these movies were not German. Kristina Söderbaum and Zarah Leander were Swedish, Johannes Heesters Dutch and Rosita Serrano was born in Chile, Marika Rökk in Hungary. One of the most talked-about Heimat films was "Die goldene Stadt" (The Golden City) with Kristina Söderbaum. We were not allowed to see it, because there were age restrictions on account of some love scenes, unbelievable really. I did see this movie after the War and I cannot understand what all the fuss was about. It was a real tear-jerker, overflowing with sentimental drama like most of them. When I think back there actually were few NAZI-propaganda movies shown in the Netherlands during the World War II occupation. Most of them were comedies and sentimental Heimat films." [Stueck]
We are most familiar with West German Heimat films. The classic Heimat films that we are familiar with were made in West Germany, especially during the 1950s. The attitudes of West German film makers and movie goers changed substantially after the 1960s.
Heimat films were a mainstay of German post-War movie making. "Heimat films of course were especially popular in West Germany after World War II (1939-45). German film studios like the rest of German industry were affected by the terrible destruction of the War. The Germans by the 1950s were again making films to supply the demand created by a reviving economy. Heimat films were popular in West Germany because the nostalgic harkening back to old values suggested an "intact world" after the horrors of World War I and II. This is perhaps why "Oktoberfest" was so popular where people drink beer and to "schunkel" (all sitting people linking arms and wave to the left and to the right to the sound of the popular music). Some of the best known classiv Heimat films were made during this era. We notice quite a few Heimat fims in the the 1950s. There were also television productions. Some serious Heimat films were also made through the late 1960s.
After the late 60s, we no longer see the highly sentimental, classic Heimat films. The German film goer was becoming more sophisticated. And the moral clarity of the 1940s and 50s was evolving into a more complicated world. We see some films being made, but many Germans might not call them real Heimat films. There were satirical films made poking fun at the sentimentality of the Heimat genre. Then ther began to appear more realistic productions on television look at family experiences in a more realistic, sophisticated way. German director Edgar Reitz created the "Heimat" seies. Some readers do not see these productions as Heimatfilms. They are efforts, however, to look at German family experiences, only in a realistic way.
Heimat films were mot made in East Germany. In East Germany, the industrial worker was theoretically the core of the state. Thus the emphasis on agricukltural roots often present in Heimat films was not in keeping with the ideologiucal outlook. The East Germany film industry suggested an "intact world" by showing Communism "as the best thing ever happened to Germany". A German reader writes, "The East Germans made a lot of fairy tale movies for children watched also by their parents, who (just my thought) confounded it with reality. But no Heimat movies.
Film makers in Germany have continued the tend in West Germany during the 1980s of creating realistic depictions of German family life in the 20th century. The best known is the "Heimat" saga. A good example is "Heimat 3". Some German readers do not consider these productions, however, to be true Heimat productions.
Stueck, Rudi. E-mail message, December 9, 2004.
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