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Free Content Hamlet is Heimat

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This article considers some of the cultural uses made of Hamlet in Edgar Reitz’s two sequels to Heimat (1984), Die Zweite Heimat (1992) and Die Dritte Heimat (2004). A definining characteristic of the young people on whom Die Zweite Heimat focuses is that they are all deeply uneasy about who their elders really are, both in terms of local and specific uncertainties about their own identities and of the wider and all-besetting question of what the older generation did in the war, and whether or not they were Nazis. In Die Dritte Heimat there is again repeated emphasis on father–son relationships, though this time the focus is principally on the destruction or displacement of ‘natural’, biological fatherhood. In turning to Hamlet, a play that German culture has in many ways appropriated as peculiarly its own, Reitz finds a text and a template associated not only with a country that had fought against Nazi  Germany but, more fundamentally and more therapeutically, one deeply rooted in an older and far less troubled sense of the German national psyche than any the twentieth century had been able to offer.
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Keywords: Heimatfilm; burial; cinematography; cultural memory; father–son relationships; ghosts; unser Shakespeare; war guilt

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Sheffield Hallam University

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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