January 18th, 2005



The last few weeks won't go down as being filled with many particular achievements. In fact, one abiding memory will be wiping out almost all of the audio tracks for the new album while trying to create more hard disc space for them. Success! Err... What they were doing in that folder I do not know, but there they were indeed. So, it's back to the beginning, although all the midi/keyboard stuff survived intact so not all is lost. It will be better for it, I assure you.

One achievement I will remember, however, is watching the entirety of Heimat. I didn't see much of this when it was first shown on television, but I remember it being broadcast. I was an avid watcher of the subsequent Heimat 2 however. I'd spotted Heimat in a shop just before Christmas and wondered whether the local video shop (the Europhile one) would get in stock. They did. At first I thought that this Heimat would turn into Heimat 2 over the course of its 8 discs. It didn't and that didn't matter.

I don't speak German and I've never been especially taken with Germanic culture. Yes, I've got my Kraftwerk records and a few volumes of Rilke, there's Dada and Mahler, Fassbinder and Neue Deutche Welle, but not much else. There's only a certain amount of time on this planet and with the attractions of the Latins and the Slavs, well, the Germans always seemed rather too close to home, rather too familiar, rather too much like ourselves. At school, the choice was between French and German (so French) and when the option came around again it was up against Russian. I wouldn't have minded learning German, but it's never been especially high on the list of languages to learn. Yes, I do believe I've missed out on a lot. But then I don't speak Chinese either and I'd follow that route if locked in a cell for five years. The longest phrase I know in German is Ich liebe die Unwissenheit um die Zukunft und will nicht an der Ungeduld und dem Vorwegkosten verheißener Dinge zu Grunde gehen which is from Nietzsche and means "I love not knowing the future..." and I can't remember what the rest means! I have used it in a few German-speaking contexts and it's not an especially useful conversational gambit on long train journeys.

This aside, I did really enjoy watching Heimat [Here's some background on the broader concept of that term]. I'll admit that the series is a soap opera of sorts with the same fascinations about what might happen to whom to keep you going, but it lacks the bludgeoning of Eastenders where every desire, hurt and insult has to be signposted in eight foot high letters. Neither is it epic, except in the aspect of length. The first part of this series stretches from 1918 to, err, 1982 or something. Each part of the series is contained in a fairly tight time period, but large periods lapse between these parts and you grow to like almost all the characters in their way. You see them grow old and die. Many disappear wthout comment and it's only with the subtlest of touches that you're alerted to their demise in the ten year lacuna between some parts.

I can't pretend that the entire series is perfect, but with a canvas as broad as its 924 or so minutes, these flaws are less than discernible. You certainly do wonder where this sort of quality television making has gone. It's only £70 at that first link. It would be £70 very well invested I think. This is one to watch and show friends and children. I don't make suggestions if I'm not entirely convinced of something's worth. But you should buy this if you have any interest in, well, at the end of the day, life...

I was hiring the final part of the set last week and the owner said that the British company who released it were thinking of releasing Heimat 2 if the first proved a success. It's a shame that the German company didn't just release a version with a number of subtitling options and prevent this sort of speculative obstruction getting in your cinephile's way. The second and third Heimat are already on release in Germany. Why not put the English subtitles on them for heaven's sake? They've both got them already in some form. What do I have to do? Learn German? So, for my sake and all the other non-German speaking fans, please buy the first and we'll get the second (this part starts in the 60s and is initially centred around the son Hermann who goes to Munich to study music. It's all student radicalism, Stockhausen, protest, Baader-Meinhof and so on in the background and life, of course, in the foreground. This one is a mere 1532 minutes in length...).

It's almost made me want to visit the Hunsrueck! As it also reminded me of Zarah Leander.