Netflix doesn't have a great selection of German films, but it now offers the entire Heimat Trilogy - Edgar Reitz's epic saga that covers Germany's tumultuous history from 1918 to 2000. This is more than 53 hours of film on 20 DVD's (streaming format not available). And, based on what I've seen, it is a riveting story. I finished the first Heimat - 15 hours of viewing - and found that I had grown a beard and my lawn was in desperate need of mowing.
The first Heimat focuses almost exclusively on the Simon family in the tiny rural village of Schabbach in western Germany. We experience the Weimar inflation, the Nazi era, the war, the American occupation and the Wirtschaftswunder in Schabbach, where change comes very slowly - if at all. The family (and the village) are held together by the beautiful and long-suffering Maria Simon (wonderfully acted by Marita Breuer). The acting is superb, and the script is excellent - except for the Felliniesque final episode. I loved the cinematography, but I don't quite get why Edgar Reitz keeps switching from black and white to color.
Reitz has been criticized for its realtively benign depiction of the Nazi period. But I think it is accurate that the 1930's were perceived by many as a time of relative prosperity (see Götz Aly's 2005 book Hitlers Volkstaat) until the war led tp widespread shortages and misery. And one of the central characters - Wilfried Wiegand - joins the SS and is heard bragging about the Final Solution at a Christmas party.
Reitz has made some allowances for the American audience. Each episode begins with a recap of the story in English, narrated by one of the characters in the drama.
I've started Die zweite Heimat - Chronik einer Jugend, which follows Maria's youngest son Hermann as he leaves the provincial Schabbach for the bright lights and Bohemian life in the Schwabing section of Munich.