After completing secondary school, Edgar Reitz (Morbach, 1932) moved to Munich to continue his studies, in theater and literature at first, until cinema monopolized his attention. As early as 1953, he co-directed two short documentaries, Auf offener Bühne and Gesicht einer Residenz. Together with Alexander Kluge, Reitz signed the Oberhausen Manifesto in 1962 and the following year co-founded the film department of the Ulm School of Design, the first of its kind for New German Cinema, and became a teacher there. After handling the cinematography for Kluge’s first film, Yesterday Girl (1966), Reitz made his own directorial debut with Lust for Love (Golden Lion at Venice for best debut film, 1967).
In 1976, Reitz met the screenwriter Peter Steinback and the cinematographer Gernot Roll, teaming up with them to make Zero Hour (1977), a road movie consisting of brief stories set in the interregnum following the fall of the Nazi regime. He also co-wrote and directed Alexander Kluge’s Frankfurt docu-fiction In Danger and Deep Distress, the Middle Way Spells Certain Death (1974), and helmed a segment of the anthology film Germany in Autumn (1978). Then came a costly flop, the costume drama The Tailor from Ulm (1978), and Reitz’s career seemed to be over. Defying the odds, the filmmaker rose phoenix-like from the ashes, after years of silence, and came out with Heimat: A Chronicle of Germany (1984), an epic film/television saga nearly sixteen hours long, co-written with Peter Steinback and featuring Roll as DOP. Alternating black and white and color, Heimat was a sweeping canvas that recreated sixty-three years of contemporary German history as seen from the provincial outskirts of an imaginary village in Hunsrück, the small region where the director was born.
Heimat catapulted Reitz into the filmmaking pantheon, and a 1992 sequel, Heimat II: A Chronicle of a Generation, was equally audacious (thirteen episodes running roughly twenty-five-and-a-half hours, all in all). Heimat 2 followed Hermann’s departure from Hunsrück for the bohemian Munich of the 1960s, all the way to his return home in 1970. The last installment, Heimat 3: A Chronicle of Endings and Beginnings, spanned the history of German reunification and up to the dawn of the new millennium. To conclude his epic, Reitz brought back musicians Hermann and Clarissa from the previous film, and while the much shorter Heimat 3 (a ‘mere’ 12 hours in length) may not quite match the two before it, the grand scheme is all there in a narrative exploit that alternates color and B&W, gravity and jest, drama and farce. [biography by Giovanni Spagnoletti]