‘Fragments’ is perhaps the wrong name for this latest entry to the series of German historic dramas, given that it equals nearly two hours of screen time.
That’s less surprising when you think of it as cut scenes from 52 and a half hours of the three previous Heimat chronicles.
However, if the 45-minute ending that blights The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King is best viewed as a justified send-off for a single 14-hour film, rather than a long-winded coda at the end of three hours of action, then perhaps this additional drama can be seen in a similar way.
Unfortunately, that’s also the biggest flaw of this supplement to director Edgar Reitz’s sweeping, unbelievably ambitious and deeply esoteric mega-work – viewed separately from its three progenitors, this is barely tolerable.
For those who have seen Reitz’s idiosyncratic version of German history this feels like little more than a DVD extra from Heimat 3.
The new footage included here is structured around Lulu (Nicola Schössler), the daughter of musician Hermann Simon (Henry Arnold), as she searches for meaning in her own life by delving into the past of her female ancestors.
It’s like a German-language Who Do You Think You Are?, only without the much-needed voiceover to spell out how it all hangs together.
The piece does have an appealing dreamlike quality, often becoming vaguely hypnotic in the manner of an art installation, but that unfortunately doesn’t translate into a satisfying story.
What’s also irritating is that the story is shot in HD but framed, blocked and executed like it should be on film (presumably to fit in with the style of the older intercut material), which only draws attention to the lack of romance the digital image manifests.
If the artistic point was to make the present dissatisfying and ugly compared to nostalgic remembrance, then it’s a success – but there’s little to suggest this was intentional.
The Heimat title has always been a playful allusion to the many meanings of ‘homeland’ for Germany across the decades, while also reflecting how the concept of ‘home’ changes across the span of our lives.
How this clunky addendum fits into that beyond some trite parallels is hard to grasp. Those unfamiliar with Reitz’s previous Heimat projects should start there first, but even those who lapped up his original works will find this a muddled disappointment.
If you’ve already caught the previous editions of Heimat then this is likely to disappoint – on that basis it’s for completists only.