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Heimatfilm (German pronunciation: [ˈhaɪmatˌfɪlm], German for "homeland-film"; German plural: Heimatfilme) is the name given to a film genre that was popular in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. They were usually shot in the Alps, the Black Forest, or the Lüneburg Heath and always involved the outdoors. These films were noted for their rural settings, sentimental tone and simplistic morality, and centered on love, friendship, family and non-urban life. Also, the polarity between old and young, tradition and progress, and rural and urban life was articulated. The typical plot structure involved both a "good" and "bad" guy wanting a girl, conflict ensuing, and the "good" guy ultimately triumphing to win the girl to the happiness of everyone and the children.

Heimat is a German word that can be translated as home, homeland, home soil or fatherland (each having a different emphasis and connotation).

English-language features that could qualify as Heimatfilme include Lassie Come Home, Spencer's Mountain, and Where the Red Fern Grows.[citation needed]

The genre originally came to life following the devastation of Germany in World War II, suggesting a whole, romantic world untouched by the hazards of real life (i.e. war damage and subsequent rebuilding); this remained popular from the mid-1940s to the 1960s. The Berlin-based studio Berolina Film was the driving force behind the development of Heimatfilm.[1]

In the immediate post-World War II era, the idea of Heimat is linked to the experience of loss of more than twelve million Germans, known as Vertriebene, who were displaced from the former eastern territories of the Third Reich. Contemporary concerns with expulsion and (re-)integration become manifest in many of the more than three hundred Heimatfilme that were produced during the 1950s. This is particularly true for the Vertriebenenfilme as Johannes von Moltke shows with respect to the 1951 version of The Heath Is Green (Grün ist die Heide). The Heimatfilme made during the chancellorships of Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard present idyllic images of the countryside. Nevertheless, the post-war genre does deal with questions of modernisation, social change and consumerism; it "affords the positive resolution of contemporary social and ideological concerns about territory and identity".[2]

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, young West German film directors associated with New German Cinema set out to challenge many of the cultural assumptions inherent in the Heimatfilm. The results are variously labelled "critical Heimatfilme", "new Heimatfilme", and "anti-Heimatfilme. Examples of such films include Volker Schlöndorff's Man on Horseback (1969) and The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kombach (1970); Peter Fleischmann's Hunting Scenes from Bavaria (1969); Volker Vogeler's Jaider, the Lonely Hunter (1971); Reinhard Hauff's Mathias Kneissl (1970); and Uwe Brandner's I Love You, I Kill You (1971).[3] A more recent example of an anti-Heimatfilm is Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon (2009).

The trilogy of films called Heimat by the German director Edgar Reitz (1984, 1992, and 2004) has been described as "post-Heitmatfilm" because the director neither sets out to challenge the genre on political or social grounds nor idealizes the past to the extent that earlier Heimatfilme did.[4]



  1. Hake, p. 90
  2. Moltke, p. 82.
  3. Moeller and Lellis, p. 54.
  4. Cartmell and Whelehan, p. 128


  • Cartmell, Deborah; Whelehan, Imelda. The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Hake, Sabine. German National Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Moeller, Hans Bernhard; George L Lellis. Volker Schlondorff's Cinema: Adaptation, Politics, and the "Movie-Appropriate". Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
  • Von Moltke, Johannes. No Place Like Home: Locations of Heimat in German Cinema. Berkeley: U of California Press, 2005.

Further reading