English Title: Beste Gegend
Original Title: Beste Gegend
Country of Origin: Germany
Studio: Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), Monaco Film GmbH
Director: Marcus H. Rosenmüller
Screenplay: Karin Michalke
Cinematographer: Helmut Pirnat
Editor: Anne Loewer
Runtime: 98 minutes
Genre: Heimatfilm, Comedy
Kati (Sturm) and her best friend, Jo (Thomass), have just finished high school and decide to go on a long-planned trip around the world by car. A car breakdown forces the two 18-year-olds to stay in South Tyrol for a few days. When Kati learns that her grandfather is ill and soon to be hospitalised the two women abandon their travels and return to their families’ farms in the Bavarian village of Tandern. Kati is concerned about her dying grandfather and spends time with him and her family. Jo, however, is impatient to resume their journey and starts flirting with Kati’s crush, Lugge (Murr), a travelling carpenter, who tells Jo stories from his journey around the world. With the help of her friends, Mike and Rocky (Brückner and Schmidt-Modrow), Kati smuggles her grandfather out of the hospital and takes him into his fields where he dies. Kati is determined to travel after her grandfather’s funeral but finds Jo with Lugge. An argument at a football match ensues and Jo books a solo trip to South Africa. After a dramatic reconciliation between the two friends, Kati decides to stay in Tandern while Jo leaves for her trip.
Beste Gegend (literally ‘best region’) is the second part of Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s Heimatfilme trilogy set in the small upper-Bavarian, predominantly Catholic town of Tandern, which follows the coming-of-age of two young women and childhood friends, Kati and Jo. Writer Karin Michalke grew up in Tandern and the screenplays of all three films are based on her experiences.
Like Good Times, Beste Gegend plays out Kati’s and Jo’s adolescence and deals with questions of home and belonging. The underlying subtext of Beste Gegend, the expulsion from paradise, is one of the most common mythological models of Heimat narratives in both German film and literature. It defines the main parameters within which the conflict between the two female protagonists evolves: the childhood home with its connotations of innocence, wholeness, uniqueness and moral superiority is constantly threatened by loss. Home and the values associated with it are set against endeavours to cross boundaries (both geographical and moral). Questions of belonging are translated into a conflict over loyalty to friends and family, and home is a testing ground for Kati’s and Jo’s friendship.
Numerous allusions to the fall of Mankind also reveal connections between constructions of femininity and home that are deep-rooted in the German concept and history of Heimat, as well as in the Catholic tradition. Jo, for example, is modelled after Eve, in contrast to the motherly Kati, who bears traits of Mary, mother of Jesus. Whereas men set out on journeys and come back to the home they are longing for, women stay behind and guarantee the continuity of home for returning men. As a domain historically linked with concepts of the feminine, ideas of Heimat, with its associated values, take part in processes of idealisation of the feminine. As a consequence, female self-realisation in the context of Heimat has been historically limited (Blickle 2002:83).
Beste Gegend deals with the ‘Heimat dilemma’ of the female protagonists, but it does so in a rather ambivalent way, constantly oscillating between affirmation and ironic subversion of the biblical subtext. This ambivalence, which is typical of many recent German Heimatfilme, becomes most apparent in the relationship triangle between Kati, Lugge and Jo. Drawing on a standard conflict of the 1950s Heimatfilme – which is usually resolved in the marriage of the male character to the female protagonist who is depicted as morally superior (‘Mary’) to the other (‘Eve’) – Kati’s and Jo’s quarrel is not based on their shared interest for the same man, but, more broadly, on their colliding views of home and belonging. Lugge, as well as other male characters in Beste Gegend such as Mike and Rocky, appear and disappear as mere supernumeraries in the women’s quests for their individual self-realisation, and they often bring about comic relief. Beste Gegend establishes the Heimat as a topic particularly troubling for women, and thus stands as a novelty within the historical context of the conservative Heimatfilme genre. The selective use of irony, however, elides Kati and Jo’s representations as ‘Mary’ and ‘Eve,’ affirming gender constellations that continue to underpin the concept of home.
Author of this review: Maria Irchenhauser