Well, this is a German film, so people are silent and naked and nothing is explained at all.

Beloved Sisters made me feel like reading The Blue Flower did, to wit: am I the only person in the world not obsessed with German romanticism, or is everyone else just as confused? Where even is Jena?

Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter) is poor but brilliant, and incipiently consumptive, because he’s a poet. He has a penchant for unfortunate liaisons. Inevitably, therefore, he manages to fall in love with both daughters in a noble but reduced family–Charlotte (Henriette Confurius) and Caroline (Hannah Herzsprung). The twist? They have sworn an oath to share everything, and also Caroline is married. Eventually he marries Charlotte and insanity ensues, but slowly and for the most part quietly.

It’s not much, plot-wise, and most of it seems to have been made up out of whole cloth. There’s no one to root for–Charlotte is long-suffering, but too weak to be appealing; Caroline is awful; Schiller needs to be kicked. That said, it’s a beautiful movie, and the mood-setting is exceptional.

That’s not a lot to say about a long and fairly well-made film about which I had feelings. But my feelings were very amorphous–I kept hoping for something to happen, and then it sort of did, but it was probably the opposite of what I thought I wanted. It really felt like it was trying desperately hard to place the genius of Schiller on an earthly plane, but could never quite escape the essentially bourgeois character of his actual life. Here’s a hint: if you’re going to make things up, go full fantasy.  Don’t make us watch him eat breakfast, just show us attacks of TB and moody staring.

Stray notes:

  • It’s not clear to me why we only ever saw the back of Goethe’s head (I think).  This is not a Jesus in Ben Hur kind of situation, and surely Goethe is no more distinctive than Schiller (I say this as someone who grew up with a bust of Schiller in her house, though, for some reason).
  • Seriously, Charlotte. Grow a spine.

Director: Dominik Graf
Rating: In America, definitely R.
Length: An almost tedious 138 min.
Score: 3/5.

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