DOCUMENTARY ART: Thomas Heise travels into mental and emotional ruins.

Wieczorek is a critic living in Paris.
Published: 2020-02-11
Heimat is a Space in Time

Thomas Heise (Germany, Austria)

Thomas Heises Heimat is a Space in Time # made a deep impression during last year's film festival in Berlin. The main prize from the renowned international film festival Visions du Réel in Nyon in Switzerland confirms that the film is an exceptionally intense example of documentary art where the impact is created with relatively simple aesthetic tools and slow build-up. The camera mostly glides over insignificant places: desolate mountain scenery, ruins, untamed forests, train and underground stations and areas that are in the process of being transformed or about to be abandoned. The volatile mood of the images is further enhanced by the accomplished black and white aesthetics. We also get to see pictures from family archives and, strangely enough, a longer dialogue between the filmmaker's father, the philosopher Wolfgang Heise, and the playwright Heiner Müller.

Cross-letter exchanges

The film is dominated by a narrative voice that quotes from the letters of four family generations. We are drawn into the suffering, loss and grief of people who try to maintain a dignity in times of political powerlessness, corruption, surveillance and oppression. Hereby Heise documents the history of Germany from 1912 to the present day, where human life, doubt and resistance are at the center. Sequences of silence between the letter quotes create voids - openings in a border country where both identity and sense of direction are in danger of being lost.

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Already the first letter can be read as a summary of Germany's historical destiny and schizophrenia to this day. In 1912 wrote Wilhelm Heise, Thomas' grandfather, a school style against war, in which he describes war as an exclusive and endless human slaughter that only the ruling class can benefit from. In 1914, he notes the prophetic idea that "a nation will never forget the defeat and wounds inflicted on it by the enemy, and thus hatred will always find a brutal outlet for its anger in a new, bloody war." This essay reflects people's strategically organized superstition and the willingness to sacrifice knowledge and enlightenment. War erases all virtues. But after this clear-sighted party, the arguments change, and we hear a resolute determination to defend the homeland, "Germany," whenever ...

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