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Sleeper of the Week: ‘Beloved Sisters’

Sleeper of the Week: 'Beloved Sisters'

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some
light on it.

“Beloved Sisters”
Dir: Dominik Graf
Criticwire Average: A-

The period epic “Beloved Sisters” sounds on paper like the kind of film that would get the kind of Masterpiece Theatre treatment that might dull its story, about a love triangle between German poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, his wife and her sister. But director Dominik Graf’s sense of time and place is far more particular than that of his contemporaries, and he gives the story some real stylistic panache (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky cites his use of zooms and whip-pans). What’s more, Graf (“A Map of the Heart”) treats the central relationship as a complicated relationship based in bohemian ideals while showing how difficult it is to sustain. It’s an uncommonly sensitive and intelligent costume drama, one with more focus on the mood and people of the era than the bric-a-brac.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Joe Bendel, Libertas Film Magazine

Like the three-hour historical epics of old, “Beloved” is a big, chewy melodrama, filled with simmering yearning and cold sweats. Supposedly inspired by Schiller’s only letter to Caroline she did not manage to destroy before her death, Graf’s screenplay relies on considerable speculation, but the earnestness of the central trio gives it all the ring of truth. Read more.

Kurt Brokaw, Independent Magazine

Graf’s rapid pacing never flags, and one gorgeous locale after another (primarily Thuringia plus Saxony, North Rhine-Westfolia and Tyrol) frames the events. Finally, the hope of the Enlightenment years dissolves into the approaching French revolution, wafting dark currents over an approaching new century. This is all traditional movie-movie staging, but we rarely see it done with such vitality. Read more.

Scott Foundas, Variety

Retaining the novelistic narrative density offered by television while taking full advantage of cinema’s larger, more enveloping canvas, Graf has created an unusually intelligent costume drama of bold personalities torn between the stirrings of the heart and the logic of the mind, while casting his revealing gaze upon Western Europe’s bumpy transition from the 18th to 19th century. Read more.

Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com

A very nearly epic romance, one that approaches the idea of a ménage-a-trois as emblematic of a particular idealism on the part of its participants rather than a hotsy-totsy taboo-busting arrangement. Read more.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club

Graf’s knack for no-nonsense storytelling means that “Beloved Sisters” seems to fly past. Each detail and observation—whether it’s about the Romantic mindset, gender roles, or fame in the pre-celebrity age—is integrated so seamlessly that the movie feels effortless. Read more.

Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice

Although there’s nothing sensationalistic about his approach, he treats the characters’ tentative, often problematic bohemianism as a wild, brave, and precious thing, and the lead actors — restrained where it counts and bold where it matters — are a pleasure to watch. Read more.

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