BERLIN Feb 8 A sumptuous historical drama with
German poet Friedrich Schiller at the heart of a love triangle
in "Beloved Sisters" transported audiences back in time on
Saturday with the second of four German entries for best movie
at the Berlin Film Festival.
In the evening the festival will see the international
premiere of George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" about a squad
of art specialists sent into Europe near the end of World War
Two to rescue art works from the retreating Nazis.
Clooney's film, which stars himself as well as Matt Damon
and Bill Murray, will have a special resonance in Germany, which
last year was gripped by the discovery of a stash of more than
1,400 art works in the flat of an elderly recluse. Most were
believed to have been looted or extorted by the Nazis.
Striking a contrast with the festival's first German entry
"Jack", a gritty contemporary family drama, director Dominik
Graf's "Beloved Sisters" depicts the 18th-century national hero
and two beautiful sisters from the penniless aristocracy
attempting to establish a loving "ménage a trois" over more than
Schiller marries the younger of the two sisters, who have
made a pact to share everything - including him - in an attempt
to protect their idyll under the guise of convention.
But the elder sister, who is trapped in an unhappy marriage
of convenience, increasingly realises their naivety, and the
equilibrium of their love triangle starts to become undone when
the younger one becomes pregnant.
"The core of the movie is incredible tenderness," Graf told
a news conference, noting that he wanted to focus on their love
rather than on Schiller as a famed writer and protagonist of the
"Sturm und Drang" literary movement, together with Goethe.
Graf, who has of late directed more television than film,
said he let his film sprawl out over more than two hours -
repetitious scenes show the protagonists writing love letters to
one another or travelling to and fro by horse and carriage - in
order to capture the slower pace of that era.
"We wanted to avoid the impression that people were racing
through the streets back then," said Graf. "We would force an
artificial speed, it would have falsified the whole thing."
Producer Uschi Reich, who came up with the idea and has done
other films about Schiller, said she was fascinated by the way
people were challenging the norms of relationships around the
time of the French revolution in 1789.
"At that time people were really thinking about utopias,
like we were in the '70s, utopias of love, living together,
shared accommodations," she said. "People before and after the
revolution people tried and tested new forms of coexistence."
The film is punctuated by the characters reading out the
letters sent between Schiller and the elder of the sisters,
Caroline von Beulwitz, who went on herself to become an author
of some success.
Graf said he reconstructed those letters himself, as von
Beulwitz became ashamed of them towards the end of her life,
"piled everything onto one huge pyre and burnt them all".
"Beloved Sisters" is one of 20 movies competing for the
"Golden Bear", the Berlin Film Festival's top prize which will
be awarded next week. More than 400 films are screening at the
(Editing by Stephen Powell)