fri 23/04/2021

DVD: The Edgar Reitz Collection | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Edgar Reitz Collection

DVD: The Edgar Reitz Collection

The Heimat director's quixotic past uncovered

First flight: Tilo Puckner takes off as the tailor from Ulm

Immediately before Edgar Reitz (pictured below) made Heimat - the 52-hour film sequence begun in 1984 telling 20th-century German history in profound provincial detail - he was washed up, a New German cinema revolutionary who was no longer new, outpaced by Wenders,

Immediately before Edgar Reitz (pictured below) made Heimat - the 52-hour film sequence begun in 1984 telling 20th-century German history in profound provincial detail - he was washed up, a New German cinema revolutionary who was no longer new, outpaced by Wenders, Herzog and Fassbinder. In his 80th year, Heimat has secured him a unique place in German culture, and now these first two releases in The Edgar Reitz Collection (both UK DVD debuts) excavate his own buried past.

Lust for Life, his 1967 feature debut, begins as a nouvelle vague-beholden, breezily erotic romance between Elizabeth (Heidi Stroh) and Rolf (Georg Hauke). Its German title, Mahlzeiten (Mealtimes), suggests how that love curdles as Elizabeth gives birth to five children and becomes a Mormon convert out of boredom, while he stabs flies in a Hamburg hotel room. Usually looked back on by critics as misogynist, with Elizabeth castrating her husband’s hopes, Reitz coolly observes both this young West German pair crushed by domestic convention.

After spending most of the following decade on experimental projects, the 1978 historical epic The Tailor from Ulm ruined Reitz. Its production was as quixotic as its hero, Albrecht Berblinger, a real-life Bavarian visionary who dreamed of flying and created a workable glider during the Napoleonic Wars. Berblinger’s battered idealism, and the giddy euphoria of his hilltop launches, is mirrored by his friend Fesslen, a revolutionary who toasts: “Here’s to powerlessness.” A lavish budget is well used, and you believe a man can fly more viscerally than the contemporary Superman – The Movie, but it was savaged by critics and dismissed by the public. Reitz retreated to a North Sea island, bankrupt and maybe suicidal. Heimat was his flying machine, like Berblinger responding to disaster by launching himself into a higher, bigger risk, devoting his remaining life to swooping over history’s panorama. These test flights are worth taking, too.

Watch a preview of the Heimat trilogy

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