EDGAR REITZ - a short Biography

Edgar Reitz was born on the 1st of November 1932 in Morbach*, a small town in the German Hunsrück Mountains. There his father Robert owned a small clockmakers shop, and his grandfather Johann Reitz worked as a Blacksmith in Morbach-Hundheim. Edgar Reitz has two younger siblings. His sister Heli, and his brother Guido who assumed his fathers trade and took over the Clock Shop.

During the time he attended school in Simmern, Reitz had already started acting and stage-managing in a theater subsidized by his German teacher Karl Windhäuser. After earning his Abitur (a diploma required to qualify for University entrance in Germany), he moved in 1952, motivated by Windhäuser, to Munich to study German language, literature, journalism, dramatics, and art history. During this time he was already sporadically publishing poems and narrations, and was a co-editor of a literary journal. He was fully engaged with the avant-garde of music, arts, literature and film, and in 1953 he was one of the founders of the "Studentisches Zimmertheater" (Small Student Theater), from which in 1954 the Studiobühne an der Universität München* emanated. However most of all Edgar was fascinated by Cinema and its technical side, and became a member of a film seminar, where film classics were analyzed and discussed. In other European countries, like in France or Poland, people attended film schools at that time to become filmmakers, but Reitz was learning to make films by actually making them. After his first attempts in 1953 he started opening doors to the professional world of filmmaking by working as a cameramans assistant, editors assistant, or production assistant. He started making his first own short films in 1958. In 1962 he joined the "Oberhausener Gruppe" around Alexander Kluge*. At the "Short-Film Days" of 1962 they published the "Oberhausener Manifest"* and declared the old german film as dead, promoting the "Young German Film". In the period 1962-1965 Reitz was working as the chief of the agency for development and experimentation at the Munich "Insel-Film". Together with Kluge and others in 1963, he founded the first German film school, the "Institut für Filmgestaltung"* at the HfG Ulm, where he taught direction and camera theory until it was closed in 1968.

In 1965/66 Reitz worked as cameraman for Alexander Klug’s Abschied von Gestern (Yesterdays Girl), in 1966 he produced his first own feature film Mahlzeiten (Lust for Love)* which in 1967 was awarded as the best debut feature at the Venice film Festival. For that film the camera work was done by Thomas Mauch, who 36 years later filmed the first four parts of HEIMAT 3. "Abschied von Gestern" and "Mahlzeiten" belong to the films, which influenced the "Young German Film" very intensely [besides: we can see the movie-posters of those two films in DIE ZWEITE HEIMAT, Film 13, at the wall of the bar he meets his assistant and Zielke]. In May and June of 1968 Reitz conducted a series of lectures in filming theory and practice at a Munich secondary school. This project was documented with the Film "Filmstunde" (Lesson in film). In 1971 he initiated the "Kneipenkino" (Pub Cinema), where visitors themselves were able to put together a program from 23 Kübelkind-Geschichten (Stories of the dumpster-child).

In 1971 Edgar Reitz founded the Edgar Reitz Filmproduktions GmbH* (short: ERFilm) in Munich, his own film production company, which since then produces not only his own projects, but also those films of other well-known directors. In the 70’s and 80’s they produced lots of documentaries, feature films and television plays, and were honored with numerous awards. Contemporaneously Reitz published many books and articles dealing with film-theory and film-aesthetics, but also narrations, essays, lyric poetry, and literal versions of his films.

After the flop of his most expensive film in 1968, Der Schneider von Ulm (The taylor from Ulm)*, Reitz turned away from feature film and his state-aided standards. He retired on the island Sylt in the north of Germany. There, after being poorly impressed by the American TV series Holocaust he developed his ideas for his most successful project, HEIMAT. With Heimat Reitz returned to his own homeland, the Hunsrück, and while working on the script for Heimat, released the documentary "Geschichten aus den Hunsrückdörfern" (Stories from the Hunsrück villages), which describes people’s life in the Hunsrück in an inimitable manner. After the release of HEIMAT in 1984, he immediately started working on DIE ZWEITE HEIMAT – The chronicle of a Youth, which internationally received even more attention than HEIMAT, but in Germany did not obtain that much acceptance.

In 1995 Reitz, among others, founded the European Institute of Cinema Karlsruhe (EIKK), and was appointed to a professorship at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung* Karlsruhe.

"HEIMAT 3 – Chronik einer Zeitenwende" was made in 2002-2004 despite being troubled by serious encroachments in Reitz’s artistic liberty from the financing tax supported broadcasting companies. In 2006 he combined previously unreleased scenes from all parts of the trilogy for "HEIMAT Fragmente - Die Frauen", a philosophical discourse about memory.

Edgar Reitz lives in Munich and is married with Salome Kammer since 1995. Together with his son Christian he founded the company Reitz & Reitz Medien.

 

personal awards for Edgar Reitz (film-awards see Filmography):
Verdienstorden des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz 1985, Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse 1993, Kultureller Ehrenpreis der Landeshauptstadt München 1993, EUROFIPA d'Honneur pour lènsemble de son œvre (Ehrenpreis für sein Gesamtwerk) Cannes 1996, Staatskunstpreis des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz 2000, Ehrenbürgerschaft der Stadt Simmern 17.11.2002, Carl Zuckmayer Medaille für Verdienste um die deutsche Sprache des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz 18.1.2004, "Master of Cinema" Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg 21.11.2004,  Justinus-Kerner-Preis der Stadt Weinsberg 18.9.2005

 

at the Set of HEIMAT
(© swr.de)
with Gernot Roll, making DIE ZWEITE HEIMAT
(© heise.de)
with Henry Arnold at the set of HEIMAT 3
(© heimat3.de)
with co-author Thomas Brussig at the set of HEIMAT 3
(© heimat3.de)
with his son and cameraman Christian Reitz making HEIMAT 3
(© heimat3.de)

© Thomas Hönemann, October 26th, 2004

Thanks to Joel Young for checking my translation.

* Please excuse that there sometimes was no english alternative to the links posted in the text.

The german release of the text above was assembeled based on the following sources:
- Peter W. Jansen zum 70sten Geburtstag von Edgar Reitz (NZZ-online)
- Edgar Reitz, Kino. Ein Gespräch mit Heinrich Klotz und Lothar Spree. Schriftenreihe der Staatlichen Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe Band 3, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-89322-650-8
- Edgar Reitz: Heimat 3. Chronik einer Zeitenwende, München (Knaus) 2004, ISBN 3-81350-248-1
- Reinhold Rauh: Edgar Reitz. Film als Heimat, München (Heyne Filmbibliothek) 1993, ISBN 3-453-06911-0 
For more literature ore media referring to HEIMAT - even english publications - see Mediographie.