That was weird.
I assume we can deduct that somebody at DR never checked the version delivered by the BBC.
That was weird.
I assume we can deduct that somebody at DR never checked the version delivered by the BBC.
The social web can lead you in strange directions. Some months ago, Chris Bertram mentioned German director Edgar Reitz’ Heimat trilogy in a Tweet and it struck me that I had watched the original Heimat on TV back in the 1980s and Heimat 3 some years ago, but for whatever reason Zweite Heimat – Reitz’ portayal of a group of young artists coming of age in Munich during the 1960s – had eluded me. I have no idea why: Perhaps it was just the effort needed to follow a TV series in thirteen parts, each of which lasts two hours (with the exception of one episode lasting two and a half hours!), which overwhelmed me back in the mid-1990s.
So I decided to make a search on Amazon.de and sure enough: The entire Heimat trilogy was available as a massive 18 DVD set. Time to order, wait for the postman and to get watching.
On a curious note: Despite being screened in the early 1990s, the edition of Zweite Heimat had no subtitles – not a big deal to me as long as the characters speak High German, but when they began speaking Bavarian or Pfälsisch I was competely and utterly lost.
Zweite Heimat is a very strange experience: In many ways, it must be one of the most ambitious TV series ever made, and despite all the developments in the production of US TV series during the last 15 years (cue: Sopranos), I find it hard to imagine a mainstream TV channel take on a similar project today. It simply doesn’t fit easily into any of the predesigned formats preferred by today’s executives. It is slow, it is highly stylized and theatrical and as far as I can see, the interplay between picture, word and music takes its cues from the post-war musical avantgarde. Somehow, it could only have been made in Germany – not just because of some of the themes (the heritage from the Nazi era, the 1968 rebellion turned into terrorism), but also because it fits into what I see as a particular German theatrical and musical aesthetic. The series may look naturalistic but in many ways we move between a real and an imagined world – Hermann Simon’s journey through a Germany in social, political and personal upheaval during the last episode is a major case in point.
It is as much meditation as drama and this is why the individual episodes have to be long in traditional TV terms.
But for those who would like to make the journey through a (West) Germany of what is now the distant past, here are some of my cues:
Obviously, the main character Hermann Simon experience the same development most of us do during our youth: From a not quite mature 20 year old, uncertain of his future, to more weathered 30 year old, finding himself in a position much different from what he had imagined ten years earlier.
We find the old dynamic of an unhappy love story: Quirky Renate loves Hermann who is in love with beautiful Clarissa who marries Hermann’s friend Volker. Hermann instead marries hometown girl gone city girl Waltraud aka Schnüsschen while Stefan longs for distant Helga who almost becomes his bane.
Interestingly, even if Reitz may have built the series around the male protagonists, it is the women who stand out. Perhaps this is because the role of women – even in conservative Germany – changed so much during the 1960s. Clarissa, the cello player, becomes involved in a travelling collective of female performers, Schnüsschen takes up sociology while Renate becomes an inn-keeper presenting absurd theatre plays. Finally, Helga joins the RAF becoming one of the hard women of the terrorist left. The men almost strike me as bland in comparison.
And then there is the music which is a far cry from the standard Hollywood fare being used (and especially abused) in most movies and TV series an an integral part of the narrative. I really can’t describe it in a competent way, but the soundtrack is that of the 1960s avantgarde. I suspect that what people who – like me – are not from Germany or Central Europe fail to understand intuitively is the role played by art music in modern bourgeois culture – not just in terms of specific compositions but also in terms of music as an essential part of that culture.
Courtesy of fellow tweep Søren Sommerglæde (a suitable name in the dead of winter), I joined an “Artist Walk and Talk” at the local exhibition building Filosoffen – it is located at Filosofgangen, hence the name – where Søren discussed the some of the works with Carsten Rudolfsen and Poul Weile, two members of the association Grünhorse whose works are on display until next weekend. It was a refreshing approach with an interested member of the public rather than an art expert – hope you are not bothered by the description, Søren – as discussant.
The photograph shows the exhibition of no less than 120 small paintings by German artist Runhild Wirth who followed the demolition of the Palast der Republik on site between 2006 and 2008. Just for fun, here are two photographs I took at the same site in November 2004 and November 2011:
And then 2011
PS: Look closely, and you will find me on one of the photos from the event here.
Many would probably see the main characters Saga Norén and Martin Rohde as national stereotypes with Norén as the formalistic, rule-oriented Swede and Rohde as the laid-back Dane, but if you have worked in both countries things are a bit more complicated. In fact, Norén (minus the sex bit) looks very much as the embodiment of the traditional Danish public bureaucracy which was excessively rule-oriented while Swedish public administration (just like Rohde) has a tradition of being oriented towards negotiations, consensus and the logic of appropriateness.
Of course, one shouldn’t make too much of a dramaturgical tool but the contrast between stereotypes and reality is fascinating.
Torben Steno is one of the great warped minds of Danish television. Older readers might remember his take on the former GDR and the Danish left in the series DDR2 (prominently featuring ill-fitted brown suits), followed by “Den røde tråd”, an epic journey through the former Eastern Bloc (suitably made in a Tatra Limousine).
This December Steno has joined forces with sculptor and artist Kenn André Stilling to visit 24 more or less well-known monuments in Denmark (this time, dark suits and umbrellas included in the performance). As in the earlier programmes, the seemingly light approach reveals deep thoughts about the subject.
After watching the first five episodes I declare this must-see TV if you are just marginally interested in Danish history or society and understand some spoken Danish. The series homepage is here. Curiously, the individual 10-minute programmes are not available as podcasts.
I missed Roman Polanski’s latest offering “The Ghost Writer” (or simply “The Ghost”) when it was screened in Danish cinemas but caught up thanks to the DVD release. “The Ghost Writer” earned a certain notoriety due to the similarities of one of the main characters (Adam Lang, played by Marge Simpson’s wettest dream, Pierce Brosnan) with former UK prime minister Tony Blair, just as critics have pointed out the parallels between Lang’s and Polanski’s problems with the courts.
That said, “The Ghost Writer” is more an effective classical thriller than a new “Chinatown” or The Political Movie of 2010. If you basically don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory view of politics, the movie doesn’t tell you anything new about UK politics in general and Tony Blair’s decision to support the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. And if you are already convinced that Blair has sinister motives and that the Little Guy always gets caught in the dealings of the big and powerful – well, then there’s nothing new here as well.
So, the movie is extremely competent, has good actors and there are definitively worse ways to spend a couple of hours (you could be reading a run-of-the-mill Swedish crime novel, for instance), but after viewing it, I wondered if Polanski hadn’t spoiled the chance to make an even more interesting movie with Ruth Lang (played by Olivia Williams) as the central character. By now I’m probably not revealing a major secret by writing the Ms. Lang isn’t exactly what she originally appears to be: the bitter, neglected wife of a Very Important Man. Rather, she is the force driving the entire plot and I could imagine a very exciting piece of drama where Ms. Lang is actively trying to control the fall-out from her past and present activities.
The Danish People’s Party wants to bring back border controls. This is how the party imagines the Øresund Bridge will look like.
Alternatively, the strutting and posing can be seen as illustrations of the style of comments by Danish and Swedish politicians during the Swedish election campaign.
It’s not that my intention is to turn this into a football blog (even though I know that frequent reader with the nickname Nick would love to see that happening), but I couldn’t resist Slate’s call for guesses about the final outcome of the 2010 World Cup.
After considering the alternatives thoroughly – for about 23 seconds – I made this guess:
Okay – even if Germany looks sharp, no European team has ever won a World Cup outside of Europe. Brazil, on the other hand, won in the 1994 US tournament and the 2002 Japan/Korea tournament. Then, Brazil or Argentina – a tricky guess but without having any good arguments I went for the Argentinian side. If only to have a manager who dresses like a used car salesman from some nowhere town holding the trophy. Among those taking the poll, 24% go for Argentina and 27% for Brazil.
Update 10-07-03: My abilities to predict anything are pathetic. Not that I mind, though.
Peter Singer says it:
[German goalkeeper Manuel] Neuer missed a rare opportunity to do something noble in front of millions of people. He could have set a positive ethical example to people watching all over the world, including the many millions who are young and impressionable. Who knows what difference that example might have made to the lives of many of those watching. Neuer could have been a hero, standing up for what is right. Instead he is just another very skillful, cheating footballer.
I don’t have a problem as such with Germany winning, as I think it was the better team, but the way Germany won the match definitively put a sour taste to it. Just like “the hand of God” made Argentina questionable world champions in 1986.
Update: The goalkeeper’s name corrected.
In case any of you should meet the Danish defence, please inform it that its presence is urgently needed.
It should report at the Royal Bafoking Stadium, Rustenburg, RSA on 24 June, no later than 20:30.
In case a map is needed: Google Maps.