(Return to Hildburghausen)
Dir: Rainer Hartleb
77 min., Video
Buch: Rainer Hartleb, Wilhelm Bittorf. Kamera: Rainer Hartleb. Musik: Gunnar Edander.
Uraufführung: 24.11.1996, ARD/BR.
Produzent/Weltvertrieb: Tele Potsdam GmbH, Medienhaus, August-Bebel-Straße 26-53. Tel.: (49-331) 7215325, Fax: (49-331) 7215326.
Mon 24.02. 17:30 Arsenal
,Our little town' is Hildburghausen an der Werra in the southern most corner of Thuringia. Hildburghausen is the perfect miniature stage where the grief and illusions of three generations and political systems in the 20th Century have been acted out. Authors Rainer Hartleb (Stockholm) and Wilhelm Bittorf (Hamburg) both have a personal and familiar relationship to the town. One of them was born in 1929, left the town in 1949 and returned for the first time in 1989. The other one was born in 1944, grew up here, left for Sweden in 1952 and has since 1988 filmed his family and former neighbours for Swedish television. In the meanwhile both have amassed a great number of amateur films and photographs about the times which they have spent elsewhere. The authors weave a tale of fifty years of German history in an East German ,Liliput', talking about the lives of aunt Ursel, uncle Schorsch, cousin Rosi, Katie, Udo, Walter as well as their own childhood and the return to their roots.
Cloudy skies, forests, green meadows, soft hills: the camera takes in the whole panorama. And then the first sentence: "There are landscapes inscribed in one's heart and memory forever." We don't know yet what this ,return to Hildburghausen' means, but a contemplative mood is established and will remain throughout the film. And when we leave the Hildburghausen family of author Rainer Hartleb, we know that there are new and moving things to find out about the consequences of reunification in the ex-GDR.
There are several lucky coincidences. First of all, we have an author who can film both the personal and the universal. Rainer Hartleb was born in this town, located at the edge of Thuringia, and emigrated in 1952 at age 8 to Sweden with his mother. From 1988 he returned regularly to Hildburghausen - as the family historian who was trusted by relatives, not as an eager journalist wanting to write an ,Ossi-Essay' about bitter people whom he doesn't really care about. Secondly, a Hildburghausen cousin took home-movies of every single family event since 1961, thus contributing a private chronicle of GDR life for Hartleb's documentary. Thirdly, a Hildburghausen photographer left thousands of photos chronicling GDR life.
Still, in order to create something new, something that goes beyond the numerous, monotonous post-GDR reports, even lucky coincidences have to be orchestrated and commented. And Hartleb has this ability: he involves us into the life stories of Schorsch, aunt Ursel, Monika, Rosi, Hans and their children, until we recognize in the family chronicle the deep scars historical changes have left behind.
Hartleb needs few words for his commentary and lets the images and faces speak for themselves, for example, the old, wrinkled face of aunt Ursel who died shortly after her move to a senior citizen's home; the young, lively face of Thomas who would love to visit ,foreign countries' but has promised father Schorsch to run the family optician's shop; Schorsch who wanted to expand the business and open a second shop but miscalculated and talks with embarrassed laughter about ,my gallstones' on the telephone; aunt Rosi who is the pillar of the family, owner of a clothing shop and whose moderate wealth, i.e. new furniture, at the same time indicates family claustrophobia; her husband Hans who worked as a civilian mechanic for the People's Army, helping to build the Wall and taking it down again. "What have I done in thirty years? Nothing," he says. He sounds bitter like many of his contemporaries, and yet, his statement has a different ring to it: seeing the home movie of his wedding to Rosi we suddenly realize what it means to have lost or wasted years of one's life.
This makes it a quality documentary. We understand without having been lectured or harrassed. The discourse remains entirely within family boundaries, and yet, family members are not abused as ,specimen' illustrating the social development of East German families. Hartleb protects these peoples' individuality who belong to ,my father's landscape' and who reflect on their uprooted lives, unpretentiously, trustingly. He is the intelligent, understanding relative who combines curiosity and affection with sociological sensibility. (Sybille Simon-Zülch, in: epd / Kirche und Rundfunk, Nr. 95, December 4th, 1996)
Rainer Hartleb was born in 1944 in Berlin, Germany moving to Stockholm at the age of eight. He has been working as a filmmaker since 1968. He has directed numerous documentaries for Swedish television, but has been an independent director/producer since 1987.
1983: Hemligheter (Secrets). 1984: Along the Ganges. 1986: Love is all. 1990: Calcutta One Day, After the Wall. 1972 - 1995: Barnen från Jordbro (Forum 1996). 1996: WIEDERSEHEN IN HILDBURGHAUSEN.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.