Heimat Is a Space in Time (Dir. Thomas Heise, 2019)
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In Heimat Is a Space in Time, German filmmaker Thomas Heise shares the stories of three generations of his family, in their own words.
Heise sets the tone early, reading an anti-war essay written in 1912 by his grandfather Wilhelm, when he was a schoolboy. The director uses the same matter-of-fact, uninflected tone throughout the film – as he reads letters and notes from relatives who lived through the horrors of the First World War, Nazi Germany, and then life in Communist East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Heimat Is a Space in Time defies easy description. Heise offers no context, no talking heads, no analysis. Yet this unadorned approach, coupled with the potent imagery accompanying the words, is one of the documentary’s greatest strengths. One particularly memorable sequence involves Heise’s grandparents, a “mixed” Jewish-Gentile couple living in Vienna during the Nazi era. Their letters capture the increasing measures taken against Jews: banned from buses, losing access to coal ration cards, and lastly being forced to a concentration camp in Poland. All the while, as Heise reads, lists with the names of Jews slated for deportation scroll by on the screen for nearly half an hour.
Clearly influenced by his own previous work (much of it banned in the former East Germany, where he lived until the fall of the Berlin Wall), Heimat is the culmination of Heise’s career. It is an understated epic that brilliantly marries the written word, image, and sound design. The unspoken message is that the past, even as those who remember it slip away, remains with us.
A monumental film.
Ioana Florescu, Cineuropa
Mesmeric, persuasive and cumulatively powerful, as each piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Scott Tobias, Variety
A masterpiece; an exceptional record of the persistence of history and memory in the current moment.
Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail
Heimat is elliptical yet detailed, generous even while withholding, distanced but compelling, heady to the max and just as emotionally absorbing.
J. Hoberman, Film Comment
[Heimat] is, in the fullest sense, a Foucauldian project... [Heise's films] are like points on a curve, provisional answers to the question of how best to interrogate a particular social problem, and whether to forge connections down through space or over across time—archaeologically, genealogically, or both at the same time.
Michael Sicinski, Cinema Scope