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Berlinale Bloggers 2020
Beautiful, Terrible Heimat

Scene from the film “Walchensee forever”
Scene from the film “Walchensee forever” | Photo (detail) © Flare Film

Ranging from a horror film to a portrait of a Bavarian family – the next-gen filmmakers’ section “Perspektive Deutsches Kino” explores a complicated issue.

By Philipp Bühler

“Heimatfilm und Heimathorror” is the theme of this year’s Perspektive Deutsches Kino (Perspectives on German Cinema), which will open on Friday with Barbara Ott’s social-realist boxing drama Kids Run. Just how good or bad things are where the Heimat issue is concerned – and what the term actually means – can be explored in a total of eight films.
Jonas Heldt’s documentary Automotive accompanies two very different women’s careers in automobile production at the Audi firm in Ingolstadt. Wagenknecht, a portrait of the feisty left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht directed by Sandra Kaudelka, fits in well here.
But only Schlaf (Sleep) by Michael Venus delivers true Heimathorror. The feature film depicts a young woman fathoming the nightmares of her own mother – played by Sandra Hüller – in a remote hotel.

All the way to Mexico as a traditional Bavarian folk troupe

Janna Ji Wonders' Walchensee Forever is no unknown factor here – the documentary film has already been awarded the Bavarian Film Prize. Wonders follows her own family history over five generations, mainly of women, recorded since the end of World War I in a huge amount of film footage, photographs and letters.
From the Bavarian sub-alpine idyll of Walchensee, where Norma Werner, 105 years old at the end of the film, runs an inn for day-trippers, her daughters Anna – the filmmaker's mother – and Frauke set off into the wide world, travelling as a Bavarian music group with hammered dulcimer and guitar through the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco and on to Mexico. After a brush with enlightenment in Indian ashrams, one of them is soon drawn to the old 68-er Rainer Langhans and his infamous Munich “harem”, while the other succumbs to psychosis and dies under unexplained circumstances in the mid-1970s.
Heimathorror and provincial idyll – Wonders' fascinating, century-spanning tale about a family torn between homesickness and wanderlust not only offers far more than a colourful portrait of the hippie generation, it also thoroughly blurs the distinctions between such attributions.