Heimat is a Space in Time
This experimental essay film owes a lot to Chris Marker, and especially to his classic La Jetée, with its emphasis on still image montage for cinematic storytelling. German filmmaker Thomas Heise may have been influenced by such masters but proves a master himself, crafting what feels like a landmark for the historical archive documentary.
Heimat is a Space in Time is a vivid portrait of four generations of families over almost a century in Deutschland, a truly epic recollection of the personal and political history of the nation. Requiring your complete attention for over 200 minutes, this mesmerising film draws on photographs, letters, drawings and other documents significant to the trials and tribulations of the Heise dynasty. As we know, the 20th century saw Germany involved in two world wars and the Cold War; the trauma of the Holocaust, racial divides, and the Berlin Wall separated the filmmaker’s Viennese Jewish ancestors, his socialist great-grandparents Wilhelm and Edith, across time and space.
Striking footage of present-day Germany is captured in stark black-and-white, carefully composed to accompany each passage and meaningfully link Germany’s past and present, conjuring a sense of the world that Heise has inherited through the turmoil his predecessors went through. He narrates the whole film with a neutral demeanor, and thankfully his delivery is euphonious.
The beautiful and poignant prose of Edith and Wilhelm’s letters to each other take the bulk of the running time, and present one of the film’s most powerful moments when they are recited over the harrowing image of a list of thousands of Jewish citizens who were sent to the death camps in Nazi Germany.
The film’s length is a caveat worth noting, especially as Twitter users continue to break down how to view Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman as a series of episodes. If looking at the daunting running time creates undue anxiety, though, Heise has already divided his film into four parts. This dense feature is a very worthwhile deep dive into Germany through a personal lens.
Heimat is a Space in Time is released in select cinemas on 22nd November 2019.
Watch the trailer for Heimat is a Space in Time here: