Home From Home - Chronicle Of A Vision

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Reitz and co-writer Gert Heidenreich define home as the bosom of family, as an emotional shelter or storm, rather than simply the roof over Jakob's head."

Edgar Reitz's Home From Home: Chronicle Of A Vision is his latest exploration of the fictional village of Schabbach, in the west German region of Hunsr├╝ck, close to the Luxembourg border. Shot as a feature-length film, he delves further back in time than the previous chronicles, to focus on the family of a smithy in the mid-19th century. I should admit at this point that I have not seen the previous outings by Reitz, although this engrossing and well-realised instalment - which is perfectly self-contained - has encouraged me to rectify that as soon as I have 50 or so more hours to spare.

Key to the action is the family's second son Jakob (Jan Dieter Schneider) a voracious book reader and dreamer, much to the chagrin of his father, who believes in more earthly pursuits. Nevertheless, Jakob skives off work in the blacksmith's as often as he dares to self-teach himself the languages he believes are necessary - Portugese and native South American among others - to put into action his long-term desire to escape to Brazil. He is not alone, as Reitz offers a backdrop of small town decline, with the Prussian autocracy and poverty leading many to pack up and head out, despite the dangers that may lie ahead and in the full knowledge that there will be no turning back.

Copy picture

It's situation which resonates with the migratory patterns of the modern era and is no doubt intended to remind European audiences, who are generally seeing an anti-migratory rise of the political right, of what it means to leave everything and go in search of a new life and better circumstances.

Reitz and co-writer Gert Heidenreich define home as the bosom of family, as an emotional shelter or storm, rather than simply the roof over Jakob's head. His elder sister Lena (Melanie Fouche) represents how it is possible to be a million emotional miles away from your clan even when you live within striking distance, as she has become estranged through marriage to a Catholic (Martin Schleimer). Her desire to reconnect with her family offers an opposing force to Jakob's objective of disengaging with his old life in favour of a brave New World. He is smart and articulate but also a naif, as evidenced by his flowery voice-over, but his passions, however misguided, make him a compelling presence.

The lengthy runtime allows Reitz and Heidenreich to spend time with members of Jakob's extended family, including local lassies Jettchen (Antonia Bill) and Florinchen (Philine Lembeck), although there is sometimes a tendency to gloss over the more social realist aspects of the plot - such as the deep bite of the feudal system - in favour of romanticism. There are also signs of budget limitations, particularly in two scenes where a doll has all-too-obviously been substituted for a baby.

Reitz and cinematographer Gernot Roll shoot in black and white, with Roll's camera at its most free - like Jakob - in the rolling fields around Schabbach. The decision to occasionally pick out items - a horse's shoe, a wall - in colour is, presumably, intended to suggest the echo of the modern found in the past, but it is more of a distraction than a useful tool, providing little more than a guessing game as to what will be highlighted next. The stunt casting of Werner Herzog in a cameo role - although he is clearly enjoying himself - also feels like a flourish too far in a film which is at its best when it is at its most traditional.

Reviewed on: 21 Jul 2014
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A man in a Prussian village dreams of escape to South America.
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