Something that might have contributed to my inability to watch this all at once, other than the fact that I didn’t see it in a theater, is that there is obviously a lot of bleak subject matter. Hearing the correspondence between Heise’ family during the Holocaust while watching the camera pan down a list of names that contain members of his family, knowing that they were hauled off to camps, is heartbreaking. However, you also witness the flipside, the resilience of the German Jews and, in the microcosm, the Heise family, against all odds.
“…endlessly impressive, staunchly German Magnum Opus that deserves to be seen by all would-be historians…”
We hear about people falling in and out of love, babies being born, first days of school, first jobs, sickness, and death. It’s a celebration of all facets of life and most importantly, home, which is what the word Heimat means in German. Home is not one place, home is a feeling, and as the title says, it is a space in time. Everyone has their own everchanging definitions of what home means to them. This is something that Heise shows us with his recitations and the contrasting visuals, which go from slow pans over family photos, to the ruins of concentration camps, to men scraping ice off their windshields, to a whole hell of a lot of different trains and subway stations. The settings switch from present to future without warning but with what I assume to be quite a bit of deliberation, while the narrative pushes through time in a linear fashion.
I would absolutely recommend seeing Heimat Is A Space In Time in a movie theater, where the visuals will hypnotize you, along with Heise’s voice. Where you don’t have the option to push the pause button when you get too depressed. Where you can allow yourself to feel the whole gamut of emotions that accompany a full life. It’s Heise’s endlessly impressive, staunchly German Magnum Opus that deserves to be seen by all would-be historians and lovers of biography, storytelling, and oral histories. I also think it’s incredibly important to hear about America and other countries from an outside perspective. It certainly can’t hurt to know what the world’s feelings are on matters of great importance. It might stop us from repeating some of the same mistakes over and over again. Which I believe might be one of Heise’s objectives, to show us who we are as humanity as a whole, through the lens of one family. The scope of the film is certainly big enough to assume that.
Heimat Is A Space In Time screened at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.