Berlin Film Festival: Day 3

Love Is Strange

Love is strange. No, not the Fifties pop song by Mickey and Sylvia, but Ira Sachs’ latest film. Like his previous Keep The Lights On, it’s a hymn to New York and a gay love story. Only this time the romance isn’t centre stage. Which is almost a shame when John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are so magnificent as the ageing couple still in love whose life is torn apart after their marriage. Instead though, it’s the effect of their presence on their family, as they’re forced to sell their apartment and find one they can afford to rent – the love of a family up-close and all-too-personal, with its unfathomed depths of frustration, compassion and patience. Beautifully filmed by Christos Voudouris and with tender moments of romance, friendship and love, Love Is Strange is a moving and heartwarming tale of love on the human scale.

Dominik Graf’s Die Geliebten Schwestern on the other hand is the unexpectedly modern tale of the poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller and his romance with the Lengefeld sisters. With beautiful cinematography through Thuringia’s misty valleys and Weimar’s courtly antechambers, there’s a kind of glacial lyricism to his love affair with the two sisters, dotted with moments of inspiration – as the protagonists read their letters direct to camera, or as the 1789 Revolution strikes in Paris, with the aristocracy singled out, shining out of the dark and vulnerable. It’s well acted and well made, but while most of its narrative is inspired by a single fragment of a letter, Die Geliebten Schwestern doesn’t quite manage to eke out the love from its ménage à trois. And as its story oscillates between the sisters’ broken bond and the passion-stifling confines of marriage, it’s a cheerless lesson in the impossibility of love.

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