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Old 01-26-2015, 04:25 AM   #1
Holmes Holmes is offline
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Dec 2009
Arrow Beloved Sisters (Die geliebten Schwestern) [Germany's Oscar submission]

My review -

Blending fact and speculation and lasting a daunting-in-theory-but-nimble-in-motion three hours, director Dominik Graf's Beloved Sisters is an intricate and sumptuous romantic drama set in Germany in the last two decades of the 1700s. Germany put the film forth for Academy Award consideration, but it sadly failed to garner a nomination for the foreign-film prize earlier this month. The story turns on Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter), the dramatist, poet, and theorist remembered as an influential contemporary of Goethe, and his relationship with the Lengefeld sisters, one of whom became his wife (Charlotte, played by Henriette Confurius) and the other his first biographer (Caroline, played by the spectacular Hannah Herzsprung). They engage in an agreed-upon love triangle under the collective noses of polite society, including a stern courtier (Andreas Pietschmann) Caroline previously wed to save her family from destitution, but their oath is tested in various ways over time. By emphasizing the trio as a tempestuous unit rather than just Friedrich Schiller himself, Beloved Sisters dodges and subverts the lionizing, myopic clichés of a typical Great Man biopic. It gestures toward his achievements and significance without becoming a lavish tribute to him.

The space provided by the epic length is used to bring the period to particularly vivid life, from its constrictive customs and gender roles to the various arenas of cultural and political upheaval, including the frequently referenced revolutionary violence in nearby France. Other colorful characters, such as lady-in-waiting/Goethe muse Mrs. von Stein (Maja Maranow) and the sisters' mother (played by Claudia Messner as a scene-stealing paragon of pragmatism-laced sensitivity), are given the chance to come to the fore, too, and convey the rhythm and texture of the larger world beyond the focused intensity of the secret universe inhabited by Caroline, Charlotte, and Friedrich.

The film has enormous fun with the system of code they devise for their notes and an overarching fascination with penmanship and epistolary interaction in general, with characters often reciting the content of their dispatches as aching soliloquies to the camera. It also contains instances of genuine sensual flair. One finds the sisters quietly warming a nude, shivering Friedrich after he saves a girl from drowning. They hold themselves against him tightly in an isolated wood, clearly at once scared and turned on by the moment's seclusion and intimacy. It is the type of subtle, chaste-yet-naughty moment which can be far sexier than more overt and unimaginative cinematic depictions of fleshly pleasure.

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