Monday, September 7, 2015

A great film finally hits USA screens -- Edgar Reitz's HOME FROM HOME: Chronicle of a Vision

First released around the world in 2013 but only now seeing its U.S. theatrical debut (thanks to Corinth Films), HOME FROM HOME: Chronicle of a Vision is the work of a German filmmaker -- Edgar Reitz -- not so well known in the USA, probably because much of his work (like that of another under-seen German filmmaker, Dominik Graf), has been made for German television. Herr Reitz, shown below, is the filmmaker best known for the Heimat series (and its offspring). TrustMovies has not seen that very lengthy, three-pronged, multi-part endeavor, but now, having viewed this film, Heimat is on his list.

Home From Home itself runs over three and one-half hours, but before you decide to take a pass, let me say that this is one great film: rich in theme and characterization and done in an old-fashioned story-telling manner (but using up-to-the-minute technology) to produce something that will rivet you visually, intellectually and emotionally from first scene to last. As both director and co-writer (with Gert Heidenreich), Reitz knows how to grab us immediately and hold us fast throughout.

His dialog and story, narrated by its protagonist, Jakob Simon -- played with a fine combination of sweet naivete, strength and almost idiot-savant intelligence by newcomer Jan Dieter Schneider, shown at left -- are offered up in a manner that is beautifully rendered: literary, often flowery, full of specifics, yet sounding real and of-its-time, artful and rich in ideas. (It's a pleasure to read the fine English subtitles.)

Visually, Home From Home is spectacular. Anyone who appreciates sumptuous black-and-white cinematography should have a field day here. Further, all this is occasionally leavened with moments of sudden color that adheres to certain objects: a molten red horseshoe, blue wall, orange geode, brown eyes and the like.

Initially, this may remind you of that too-much moment of red tossed in toward the end of Schindler's List. But, no: this use of only-now-and-then color occurs often enough throughout -- at moments and with objects of some importance to the film -- that it lends a kind of mythic quality to a story that is indeed that.

Home From Home is a film about coming-of-age of an exceptional young man under exceptionally trying circumstances, and it is also a tale of a country, a people, experiencing the need to expand and emigrate, perhaps for the first time in its relatively young history. Occurring in the mid-1800s, it takes place in a small German town, where everyone knows everyone, and in fact may even know everyone in the next town over, as well.

We have father/son conflict and mother/son love, brother-to-brother competition, a banished sister, adventure, incipient sexuality, the joy of learning, the drudgery of work, near-death and death itself. Moments happen, from the hugely important to the mundane, and they are all part of the wondrous tapestry Reitz has fashioned, as our hero Jakob, with his fascination for Brazil and its natives and their language, grows from boy to young man in the midst of a German town that is re-created about as well as any time and place of two centuries past that film has so far given us.

The rest of Reitz's cast is equally fine; each family member or friend comes to fully rounded life. (Look for a lovely few moments from Werner Herzog, too, in a small but pivotal role near the movie's end.) It is so unusual to find a film this old-fashioned in its depiction of a family saga yet thrillingly current in its technology and thematic concerns. This is a wonderfully humane work, as well: Reitz, while understanding the economic and class disparities present, does not go out of his way to find villains to pillory. Just getting on with the life of the time is difficult enough.

Another top-notch example of the Corinth Films catalog, Home From Home, after appearing yesterday at the San Joaquin International Film Festival Autumnfest, will open in New York City for its U.S. theatrical premier at Anthology Film Archives for a one-week run this Friday, September 11. It will the hit Hartford, Portland (OR), Cleveland and Scottsdale in the weeks to follow -- and maybe more cities, once word-of-mouth begins. Click here then scroll down to view all currently scheduled venues and dates. Note: The director and his star will be available for a Q&A following weekend AFA screenings in New York. Several of Herr Reitz's other films will screen alongside Home From Home. Consult the AFA schedule for details .

No comments: