Beloved Sisters ★★★½

"Instead of politics, we publish art, literature, philosophy, and poetry." A key line in a three hour full-bodied melodrama, which treats emotional stakes with the most sincere attention. Historical stories of the corset types almost always require a significant addressing toward the issue of "importance." Instead, Graf defiantly turns toward a story that on its surface could be nothing further—a ménage à trois between a philosopher and two sisters—and imbues it with equal weight as the story integrates major significant changes in both political history and technology.

Schiller's famous lecture on universal history depicted here called for an expanding of history, so here the romance of three in a series of back and forth passionate embraces has become the center of the material in this search for the past. In trying to break from the dry wit, the film self-consciously attempts to re-enter the unconscious minds of its characters, treating emotions as narrative materials instead of forcing larger symbolic portentousness, understanding love as a thrilling, exciting, and tactile affair. If German cinema has been dominated by reservation, here is kissing, screaming, fucking, pushing, breaking, running—the film even gets over the awkwardness of nudity in an amusing early scene. But most of all, Beloved Sisters embraces feeling, turning even the written word into a series of direct addresses that passionately reach toward its receiver instead of only an admiration for the transference of materials.

Graf's camera flies through these mansions and small alcoves with every cinematic technique known to man—push-ins, zooms, wipes, dissolves, quick pans, jumping titles!—but most of all he relies on the work of his editor to conflate time and space into pure emotion (a two shot always requires an edit into the absent third)."Don't create any conventions," Schiller informs Charlotte about her own serialized romance, which Graf takes to heart by always doing more. Perhaps all too much, but the final five minutes cement the true aims—the formation of iconic shadows to close the romance, a sudden flash of the present to indifferent passerbys to contextualize its hidden history, and a final revelation of the basis of fact via a chance historical record, and where imagination has led from there.