Germany | Austria | Switzerland 2014
Starts July 31, 2014
Directed by: Dominik Graf
Writing credits: Dominik Graf
Cast: Hannah Herzsprung, Henriette Confurius, Claudia Messner, Florian Stetter
Length: 183 minutes
This beautifully produced late 18th century-period drama is built on fact and lots of speculation. Two beautiful and charming sisters—Charlotte von Lengefeld (Confurius) and her three-year-older sister Caroline von Beulwitz (Herzsprung)—fall for the same man, and he falls for them. ‘He’ is Friedrich Schiller (1859 – 1805), at the time a penniless, rebellious young man with few prospects, who will go on to become one of Germany’s most famous writers.
Caroline had been forced into a loveless marriage to save her widowed mother and younger sister from financial ruin. Charlotte is being groomed to become a lady-in-waiting; her hopes of finding a suitable husband had just once again been shattered when she meets Schiller (Stetter). It’s not surprising that both women would be infatuated with this attractive and interesting young playwright. Fact is that he married Charlotte. Some researchers have suggested that they carried on a ménage-à-trois and in order to disguise their love triangle they mutually agreed the younger should marry Friedrich. The film is aesthetically and technically perfect with an attractive cast, great cinematography, costumes, production and location. The script though is pale; instead of exploring the mindset of the characters in depth, the film is too enamored with the ‘scandalous affair’ per se—and therefore doesn’t raise much above a soap opera. ( )
Set in the beautiful landscape of Rudostadt, a romantic ménage-a-trios drama comes about between two aristocratic but now penniless sisters and Friedrich Schiller. Schiller, who born in the mid-seventeen hundreds, dynamically began to break ground in the subjects of poetry, philosophy, history and playwrights and is still today seen as a man ahead of his time. The film opens with the young and shy Charlotte von Lengefeld (Herzsprung) who has been sent off to find a husband by placing her with a lady of society. She falls in love with Schiller. Both she and her sister Caroline von Beulwitz (Confurius) have agreed to share everything which at that point means they combine their love for Schiller. Graft’s three-hour drama lavishly fills the screen with beautiful costumes, wonderful country houses and endless landscapes as we watch the horse and carriage roll over the hill time and time again. In fact I tried to count how many times the carriage rolled over the hill and at some point in the three hours realized that I had lost count. This film is clearly for the German audience since there is very little information about Schiller and who he was. The only sense I got about him was that he wrote poetry, was interested in politics and helped Caroline von Beulwitz write an on-going column that would be equal to a modern day soap opera. At some point in the film he meets this guy Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who is obviously an influential scholar but it remained unclear what the meeting was supposed to be about and what it was to achieve. The story primarily revolves around the two sisters and Schiller. It shows the increasing stress on this three-some relationship to the point where something has to give. Graft chose a very respectful and traditional point of view making the story very quiet and intellectual. I kept hoping for some emotional tantrum among the group but it remained relatively safe and distant. Although the film was lovely, it really didn’t need to be three hours long unless the original purpose of this film was that it would be shown on television and broken up into parts.