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Beloved Sisters - review

Beloved Sisters - review

Oct 2, 2014 Film & TV

This tale of a famous philosopher-poet-playwright and the two sisters who fell in love with him is the ultimate thinking person’s costume melodrama. It’s a romance set in what is now Germany, as Western Europe absorbs the fallout from the French Revolution and its reign of terror, and how those bloody events shaped the consciousness of thinkers far beyond French borders.

It’s also a cautionary tale about being overly optimistic when dealing with love, jealousy and matters of the heart. As young women, Charlotte von Lengefeld (Henriette Confurius) and her sister Caro­line von Beulwitz (Hannah Herzsprung) vowed always to tell each other everything and never to let their lovers come between them, but that was before they met the charismatic, beautiful and talented proto-revolutionary Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter).

Blinded by his presence, they become steadily reacquainted with the truth of French philo­sopher Blaise Pascal’s aphorism: “The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”

The sisters’ on-and-off ménage à trois with the gifted Schiller begins with exhilarating trysts and messages laced with cute code, but over the years, squabbles and pettiness threaten to destroy the sisters’ bond. A love story that begins in the drawing rooms of stately homes degenerates into the shabby surrounds of a kitchen-sink drama.

Nevertheless, it’s an enduring and compelling love story, spanning 20 years, with Charlotte becoming Schiller’s wife and Caroline his eventual biographer.

How much of it is true? In her 1830 biography, Caroline didn’t divulge details of her relationship with the writer and she destroyed most of her correspondence with him, so historians have long been kept guessing.

The film stretches to more than two hours’ screen time but director Dominik Graf knows how to pace his material so that the story fairly skips along, with a mix of voice-over and face-to-face dialogue.

It helps that the three leads are strikingly attractive and that the sets and costumes are gorgeous — and that they are never lingered over simply to glorify the designers’ and director’s sensibilities.

 

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