Beloved Sisters


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

Beloved Sisters
"The film is 170 minutes long and, if anything it feels like it should have been longer."

Beloved Sisters is a tonally odd melodrama, mostly played out in the lavish drawing rooms of Germany's Ancien Régime, about the love two sisters have for the same man. Fans of period drama may find much to admire in the stiff upper lips, intricately laced corsets and gleaming china dinner set.

The beloved sisters of the title are Caroline and Charlotte von Lengefeld, the real life lovers of classical German writer Friedrich Schiller, who was chums with Goethe. Both sisters fall for the shabby poet as he spends the summer at their family home. But Caroline is already unhappily married, and Charlotte's mother wishes for a more financially prosperous suitor for her youngest daughter.

There's a real charm to the opening third of the film, which is quite beautifully photographed in the hazy, lazy summer sun. This too is where the dynamic between Lotte and Line and the man they both love is at its most alluring. The sisters have such a strong love for one another that they are happy to share Schiller, and indeed both offer to sacrifice themselves to offer the other sister true happiness.

Of course, as passions develop, so do rivalries and jealousies and the sisters' relationship sours to the backdrop of the beginning of the bloody French revolution, which is muttered about in muted, horrified tones by the German elite, understandably worried that the rabble-rousing, decapitating mob terrorising France might move across the border.

Yet as the film reaches the middle point, the narrative begins to feel rather choppy, with characters appearing whose presence is rather unexplained, and events seem to progress unevenly. The film is 170 minutes long and if anything it feels like it should have been longer. It feels almost like a six hour television series that's been condensed into a three hour film.

Director Dominik Graf handles the material in an interesting and refreshing fashion. This is exemplified by his ability to make an exchange of letters montage - what could be more tedious? - actually rather riveting, with characters speaking to camera, intercut with the acting out of events described in the letters. On the whole Beloved Sisters is a well acted, and for the most part, riveting and emotionally involving melodrama.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2014
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Two sisters both fall for the same man - poet Friedrich Schiller.

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