Beloved Sisters

This German film tells the presumably somewhat true story of two sisters, Charlotte (Henriette Confurius) and Caroline (Hannah Herzsprung) von Lengefeld, and their shared love for Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter), a charming poet of frail health and uncertain fortunes. The offbeat romantic scenario and the performances are intense and largely engrossing, the love scenes erotic without being obscene; but costume drama buffs expecting another Pride and Prejudice may be put off by the gradually darkening tone of the film, which takes on the character of a tragedy without ever becoming a tearjerker, however. Beautifully staged and photographed, with a few quirky stylistic choices such as having characters address the camera directly, Beloved Sisters is unique and never feels like a run-of-the-mill Austen-derivative programmer.

4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Beloved Sisters is:

6. Pro-choice. “Do you want to have the child? … Why?”

5. Anti-Christian. A mother whose bastard child is of an uncertain paternity is compared to the Virgin Mary. Schiller also recites from one of his writings dealing with the inhumanity of the Inquisition.

4. Feminist/pro-gay. The sisters, who share Schiller sexually, also dress as men in order to attend one of his boys-only lectures. Caroline longs to be “a free woman, a single woman.”

3. Anti-marriage. Beloved Sisters depicts multiple unhappy unions, with marriage described as “tragedy”. Caroline’s husband is an “evil elephant” who “wants a dozen children, but only because he won’t come into his father’s inheritance otherwise.” Consequently, he “keeps pestering” her. The sisters, says Wilhelm (Ronald Zehrfeld), sent Schiller “not to paradise, but to the solitary confinement of marriage.” An incident in which a woman who fakes her death to escape her boring husband and run away with her lover demonstrates “international flair”.

2. Reactionary! Initially, Schiller is a naïve radical fired by the ideals of the Enlightenment. “I think humanity will evolve through knowledge and the sight of true beauty,” he says. Later, in the bloody wake of the French Revolution, and after having heard the horror stories of his friend Wilhelm, who has witnessed the carnage of the Terror firsthand, Schiller has more sobering thoughts. “Shouldn’t we have known, Wilhelm?” he asks. “Yes,” his friend replies. “Everyone who rang the bell for renewal should have known.”

1. Racist! That a movie – a German movie, no less! – would have the nerve to present a primitive, pre-multiculturalist Europe as something other than a totalitarian nightmare, and a place, indeed, of great natural charm and civilizational order, is a crime that this critic cannot forgive. Internet bigots obsessed with those supposed Cologne “attacks” will no doubt find much to admire in this dainty, escapist portrait of a racially homogenous society.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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