New vs. Old: The Battle for Schabbach

By Bobby

As we move into Episodes 3 and 4, Reitz begins to focus more on the changing lives of the individual families in the small village of Schabbach rather than the outside world.  Also, as we discussed in class, the outside world, such as the radio and telephone, is increasingly pressing on the village.  Not only is technology invading the Hunsruck, but people are moving in such as Lucie and Otto.  Lucie, I believe, is an extremely important character and needs to be looked at more in depth.

We mentioned briefly in class how Lucie is a big city woman, evidenced by her loose dialect, and how Pauline is now a semi-urban woman.  To continue the comparison, I would argue that Maria is representative of the village, Pauline of the small town (Simmern), and Lucie of the big city.  For instance, when Lucie is “ill,” Maria explains to Anton that she has worries and when people from the city have worries, they go to bed.  In the Hunsruck, people with worries go to work.  As for Pauline, she lives a relatively easy life, helping Robert run the jewelry shop in Simmern.  Maria, however, has to work in the fields, cook meals every day, and raise two children without a father.  What could Reitz possibly be saying about each woman’s lifestyle?  Is he offering a criticism of one?  Which one do you think is “better”?

Another important event that we saw in Episode 4 is the construction of the highway.  Throughout the episode, the highway brings in multiple new characters, such as Otto and Peiritz.  When the pair are surveying the land for the new highway, Peiritz mentions that he sees “something warm in a cold place” when he sees Maria giving Mathias bread and wine in the fields. This comment could be taken as a lamentation from Peiritz, for the new highway could destroy the old way of life in Schabbach.  The highway will bring in new people, ideas, and technology, changing the Hunsruck forever.  In the end, is the highway beneficial for the people of the village?  Or is it a threat to the way of life that Katharina and Mathias have lived for so long?

A complicated issue arises in the fourth episode, that of Otto and Maria.  When Otto breaks his arm, Reitz uses a gentle colored light when Maria feeds Otto his eggs.  Already Reitz is setting up the affair between Maria and Otto, and he continues when Maria and Otto dance together in the ballroom.  As Maria becomes more and more involved with Otto, is she being faithful to Paul?  Or is Paul’s leaving equal to a divorce?  Just throwing it out there, what could the death-head ring that Otto has mean to him?

One big question that is on all our minds is Paul.  Where is he? What is he doing? Will he return?  In these two episodes, Reitz never flashes back to Paul.  Maria is the only person to mention Paul.  While sitting in Pauline’s home, Maria daydreams of going far away, leaving behind Schabbach and everything.  Is she thinking of trying to find Paul, wishing she was with him still, or does she simply wish to get away?

One part of the two episodes we did not discuss was Hans and his role.  First, we see Hans being told that he is a “born sharpshooter” by a Nazi soldier.  From there, he shoots off the insulators on the telephone lines and is brought before Eduard, the mayor, to be dealt with.  Eduard, in complete disagreement with the police officer, commends the boy for his great skill, conveying the lack of talent that Eduard has as a mayor.  Are these series of scenes simple advancements of the plot, or do they hint at and foreshadow events to come?

In the middle of episode 4, Maria and Wilfried have a big argument over how to raise Anton and Ernst.  Maria believes strongly in giving her children what they want, encouraging fun and exploration of new ideas.  Her main concern is for them to “not be forced into situations due to circumstances” like her.  What could she be referring to?  Wilfried, however, is adamant about having Anton become a Nazi like himself, having necessary skills to make it in the world.  Anton comments that he can’t even swim!  Which path is better?  Which path does Reitz seem to favor?  Which path do you favor?

8 responses to “New vs. Old: The Battle for Schabbach

  1. I thought the comparison of the three women was an interesting point, as well. Lucie seems softer and sometimes comically fictional. She grows ill under stress, and her giggling and lightheartedness is contagious. Perhaps she serves to represent the new age of carefree living with a knack for handling money to afford that lifestyle. I feel Maria is a stereotypical hardworking agro-community woman. She has a tough-as-nails exterior in the face of everything she has had to endure. When she and Otto form their connection, there is tension because it would mean opening her heart to another man who could hurt her. Pauline seems to be the most relatable character. She is a middle-class business woman raising children with a loving husband. They are not extravagant, but can afford the occasional velvet hat. She has a balance of Maria’s sense and Lucie’s joie de vivre. I am curious to see the direction the narrative takes with these three women. Maria, Lucie, and Pauline…who will survive the pending world crisis?

  2. I don’t think Maria is in the wrong for getting involved with Otto. She is a single mother handling the stresses of raising two kids who are more interested in technology and building things than they are in the Nazi regime; let her have some fun. Paul walked out on her and we have no idea where he is or what he is doing. Now by all means I am not saying Maria should cheat on Paul I just believe that he’s been gone long enough and it doesn’t seem like he’s coming back anytime soon. Thus she has to move on at some point and she seems to like Otto. What happens if her and Otto get together and Paul returns, maybe after WWII? That would be interesting.

    I think the incident of Hans realizing how good he is at shooting is a definite foreshadowing of what his involvement in the Nazi army will be. I think Eduard may or may not resign from being mayor he seems to be under a lot of stress lately. And I commend Maria for letting her kids do what they want, however it may come back to bite both her and her children in the end.

  3. From the female perspective, I can’t stand Lucie. Maybe it’s her air, or her snooty-ness or her blatant flirtation with anyone of the opposite sex, but something is repulsive. She acts entitled and spoiled and ditzy, and it’s almost painful to watch. These qualities are magnified tenfold when flash between scenes of Lucie to scenes of Maria, the hardworking, honest, likeable mother. For example, recall the scene where Lucie is “sick” in bed and has her maid watching her son, and then contrast that with Marie fierce defense of Anton’s hobbies and talents. Clearly Edgar Reitz is making a point. Are we supposed to dislike Lucie? Are women supposed to dislike Lucie? By disliking Lucie are we to, by the transitive property, have a bias against all things urban? I agree with Bobby, I think Lucie is important, but why? Surely she isn’t present just to annoy me.

  4. One thing that was not discussed in class on Tuesday was the whereabouts of Paul. He didn’t make an appearance in either Episode 3 or 4, which brings up the question: will he ever appear again the series? At this point it seems very unlikely that he will return to his home in Germany. The fact that he wasn’t in either of the last two episodes makes me wonder if the story of Paul is finished with. However, maybe we will pick up with Paul’s story in future episodes. For all we know, maybe he has started a new life in America and we will follow his story along with the stories of his family back in Germany.

    Another thing I found interesting was that for the first time we see Maria show signs of weakness since Paul left her. Maria up until this point had not let Paul’s abandonment get to her. She has always been optimistic and never let it bother her. However, now she begins to show signs it has. One scene this happens is when her and Pauline go the cinema. After the film, Maria says she feels she hasn’t really lived yet, clearly referring to Paul and his disappearance. Another example would be her involvement with Otto. The affects of Paul’s abandonment have finally begin to catch up with her, but after all these years, who would blame her?

  5. Speaking of Hans’ role in the series, I’m not so sure that his sharp shooting skills foreshadow him joining the Nazis. The episode begins with him staring, almost skeptically, at the telephone lines as if he hates their existence. His face seems to convey an anger, or perhaps confusion of why they were built. This may tell us that if he were pressured into joining the Nazis, he would resist; he seems to have a different mindset than others and does not like the changes, even as a young boy. Once Eduard finds out about Hans shooting them, he encourages it by helping him do so. Is this because Eduard wants to encourage his skill or is it because he is subconsciously resisting the new technological developments in Schabbach? Yet again, when Eduard comes back from the city, he seems to be one of the first to take on the latest trends, such as wearing the Nazi uniform and teaching the children how to march. So maybe his motivation is to transform Hans into a “Hitler Youth.” Something about Hans alludes to his independence and I think if Eduard tries to get him to join the Nazis in future episodes, he will fail.

  6. Hans is a very interesting character, and before now, I wondered of the purpose of making him only have the use of one eye. I believe it was in our first viewing that Hans silently peered into the window, a curious boy, but creepy all the same. It seems that every detail of each character has been carefully selected to be used later in the series. For Hans, his eye is the example, making him deadly accurate. I believe that Hans destroyed the insulators out of ignorance to their use, finding that they make a perfect target, lined up with the hay at the top of the hill. This became somewhat acceptable behavior after Eduard protects Hans from punishment, and this continues. With the amount of time spent on watching Hans shoot, there must be a greater purpose in the plot.

  7. The courses of Maria and Pauline’s lives were largely defined by the marriages they entered into. Both women came from relatively similar upbringings, but in the end, Maria married Paul—who left her behind to raise two young children—and Pauline wed a well-off jeweler, enabling her passage from the village to a more urban environment in Simmern. Lucie’s identity, however, is largely independent of her marriage to Eduard. His role as mayor elevates her social status in town, but she is the same bold, independent, and scheming woman she ever was in the big city.
    Reitz portrays Maria as sad and unfulfilled, but nonetheless fiercely-faithful to her family. Pauline comes across as kindhearted, but a bit frivolous. Lucie is by far cast in the harshest light, as inappropriately flirtatious and self-centered. Whereas Maria has to work hard to support her sons and their lifestyle in the absence of her husband, Pauline reaps the benefits from her husband’s business and Lucie has no one to worry about but herself. For her dedication and love, Reitz seems to paint Maria in the most favorable light. That does not mean, however, that she lives the “best” lifestyle, because of the three women, she is probably the most restless. For her, life is a balancing act between her dreams for the future, and the reality of her circumstances.

  8. Though we have seen past this now, and both Anton and Ernst are part of the Nazi movement, I still think it was not the right place for Anton. Ernst, on the other hand, seems to flourish from it.
    Anton was never much of a people person, and always more shy than Ernst. He was content behind the camera or working in the house on the radio. He is not meant for big war or confrontation. He was meant to find a nice wife and settle in town with the rest of his family. He did find himself a wife, but I think it is contradictory of his personality that he is not there to raise the child.
    Ernst, however, has dreamed of flying and being out of the town since he was little. He is much more like Paul than Anton is, though Anton seems to idolize him. Ernst grows in the camp and becomes a great pilot. He amounts to more than he could have if he had stayed home.

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