German Film Club
Wednesday, 2 November 2016, 19.00 WIB
Auditorium, Kedai Kebun Forum
Jl. Tirtodipuran 3, Yogyakarta
Open for public and free entry
Die Geliebten Schwestern (Beloved Sisters)
Director: Dominik Graf, 2012-2014, Feature Film, 134 min., German with English subtitles
Cast: Hannah Herzsprung, Henriette Confurius, Florian Stetter, Claudia Messner, Roland Zehrfeld, Maja Maranow
1788: Charlotte von Lengefeld, the daughter of an impoverished noble family in Thuringia, and her unhappily married sister, Caroline of Beulitz, had once vowed to share everything. When Friedrich Schiller, who has been expelled from Württemberg, appears in their hometown Rudolstadt, the two sisters begin a love triangle with the poet, which benefits from his marriage to Charlotte. But this lifestyle turns out to be fragile. Their private utopia seems to be just as compolicated as the political situation unfolding in the background: the French Revolution.
The noble family von Lengefeld is completely impoverished. The sisters grow up without a father, and Caroline has married primarily for financial reasons. Charlotte initially leaves her hometown to live in Weimar with her godmother, Mrs von Stein – a place where she may have the chance of “marrying well”. But she is not happy in the court setting – this may be one of the reasons why she feels drawn to Schiller. Her mother thinks the penniless poet is not a suitable match: “My daughters deserve a life without worries!” The fact that not only financial worries can make a person unhappy is something Caroline painfully experiences first-hand. But before that, the auspicious summer of 1788 arrives. Schiller comes to Rudolstadt and the two sisters, who, years previously, had vowed to share everything, both fall in love with the poet, who has gained fame, but not financial independence, with “The Robbers”.
Schiller, who can’t swim, courageously rescues a child from the Saale River, only to be pulled out of the water himself by Charlotte. The two sisters undress the dripping wet, shivering Schiller and warm him with their bodies, but cannot prevent the young man from becoming seriously ill. In 1805, “pneumonia” is registered as his cause of death – so this sequence can certainly be understood as foreshadowing. The more experienced Caroline is the first of the sisters to spend a night of passion with the poet. But Charlotte is the one who will marry him, not least to maintain the love triangle, and will eventually bear him four children – while not into wealth, at least reasonably safeguarded. Caroline separates from her husband and has an affair with federal minister and intendant Dalberg. Later, she would enter into a second marriage with Schiller’s friend Wolzogen and write the novel “Agnes von Lilien “, sequentially published by Schiller anonymously in the “Horenausgabe”.
“What fascinated me from the beginning: making a film about words; words of love, promise and the joyful longing for another bourgeois life. Filming letters, watching the figures write, sometimes even allowing the letters to speak. Talking about feelings, talking about love in a threesome, planning, scheming a bit to maintain free rein. Three clever people, each one complicated, each in a different way. From today’s perspective, I tried to shoot this film as one would write – as if the paper was the film stock.” (Dominik Graf)
At the same time, Graf allows a wealth of historically documented people to appear – key players in German cultural life of the late 18th century. One of those is the publisher Johann Friedrich Cotta; even Goethe can be seen once, though from afar. In its philological diversity, this may seem as confusing as the mixture of fact and fiction at times, especially for those not versed in German studies. But this hardly prevents one’s understanding of the film, ensured by the clarity of the camera work and the wonderful actors. In the end, this private utopia threatens to degenerate, just like the French Revolution, the perversion of which Wolzogen describes after arriving from Paris. Schiller felt as though he was “a refugee on a lonely planet”, he recounts later. By that point in time, Charlotte and Caroline have long become hopelessly estranged from one another. In 1802, they nevertheless appear together at the alleged deathbed of the poet. He would then recover and live for another three years. The utopia never became a reality, though it was not entirely in vain and was worthy of the hope it inspired.
BELOVED SISTERS received the Best Cinematography Award at this year’s Bavarian Film Awards and will represent Germany as the official submission for the 87th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
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