A 15 ½ hour German film about life in a village from 1919 to 1982? Bring it on. Following the Simon family in the village in the Hunsruck in West Germany, this eleven part film, although technically I think this belongs on a TV series list, starts at the end of the first world war as Paul Simon, son of Katharina and Mathias, brother of Eduard and Pauline, soon to be husband of Maria and father to Anton and Ernst, returns home, and plays through the lives of this family, along with their various partners, offspring and neighbours, over the course of the following 63 years. The scope of this piece is hugely ambitious, with over 100 speaking parts, but the episodic nature works well, with even a recap at the start of each segment.
A large portion of the film is understandably given over to world war 2, from its outbreak, duration and aftermath, and much is shown from different viewpoints – the home guard, bomb defusal, Hitler youth, and an impressively impartial viewpoint is given to it. However, a lot of the plotting is of a soap opera standard, with love triangles and children growing up in ways unhoped for by their parents. Also focus, is lost once the spotlight moves from village stalwart Maria to her children, although this could be a deliberate way of showing the village – from which Maria has barely left her entire life, is also losing focus, splitting in different directions as per the varying lifestyles of her children.
Yes, this is ridiculously long. Ridiculously. We’re talking over 20 episodes of 24 here, over six discs, so if you’re gogin to watch this in one go, don’t invite me round. But if split over a few evenings, in much the same way as a normal TV series, this is definitely worth a look, even if some plot points are clearly signposted, and it gets a bit silly at the end when a main character dies and meets everyone they’ve met who has died before. Apparently, if you are blind when you die, in Heaven you’re invisible.
Choose film 6/10