The Audi Festival of German Films kicked off last night (Thursday 14 May) in Melbourne with the nearly two and a half hour long film, Beloved Sisters. Upon arrival at Palace Como, cinema goers were greeted with wines and soft drinks while a DJ played music and a few young Goethe employees dressed in period costume mingled with the crowd, setting the mood.
Once in the cinema, a gift bag from the Goethe Institut sat on each seat filled with goodies which included a chocolate coated bretzel and some gummy bears to snack on. After some introductions by the Cultural Program Coordinator Gabriele Urban (Goethe Institut Australien) and Peter Krausz - film critic, film journalist, Q&A host and film juror, the star of the movie, Florian Stetter popped onto the stage for just a few minutes to say hello.
The huge crowd was split into two cinemas, both screening the movie. Once over, the foyer of the Palace Como was filled to capacity and it was time to party. Catering was again supplied by Hofbrauhaus as it was earlier in the month at the media launch when they showed Who Am I - No system is safe. Actor Florian Stetter joined the crowd as he stood by the Audi backdrop chatting with patrons and posing for photos with them.
A biographical film based on the life of German poet, writer, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller (1759 –1805) (Florian Stetter) and his love triangle with sisters Caroline (Line - Hannah Herzsprung) and Charlotte (Lollo - Henriette Confurius) von Lengefeld. All three migrate to each other like kindred spirits, all living in situations not of their choosing.
Caroline, in a loveless marriage to an aristocrat to save her family from poverty. Charlotte, living with her aunt who is grooming her in the hope of marrying well like her sister and Schiller in exile, banned from his native land for political reasons and now living on a meagre income from a benefactor which is costing him dearly, just so he's able to write in peace.
Schiller is in love with both sisters as they are with him. They ignite their great love for each other during a summer they spend away together. He finds an intellectual match in Caroline who also writes but she's married and doesn't want to jeopardise her family's financial standing. Eventually he marries Charlotte who has her own little secrets up her sleeve in making this dream come to fruition.
Eventually tension mounts between the sisters and the cohabitation of this love triangle begs the question, can it possibly suvive and thrive?
Listed on the Goethe festival dedicated website as a movie that contains drama, history, romance and literature, I found the movie didn't really hit its targets. It tries to get historical by touching on the subject of the social and political upheavals rocking France on the eve of the revolution but doesn't really go in depth and the same goes for its literary scenes.
For me, for this reason it loses its impact. It tries to cover all angles that one would imagine comprises a movie of epic proportions, but doesn't quite hit the mark. It was far too long and its content could have been more condensed with flavour instead of being sparse and threadbare.
I do believe it's the film that let the actors down. Hannah Herzsprung and Henriette Confurius were the two delightful female leads that brought some sunshine to this otherwise slightly dull film with their onscreen personalities as did Florian Stetter who played the slightly delicate and passionate poet to the hilt. I give this a 6 out of 10.
For me, meeting and greeting Florian Stetter the actor had to be the highlight of the night. Born in Munich, Bavaria, Germany in 1977, his past credits include Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), Before the Fall (2004) and Love, Money, Love (2000) among many others. He appears in 3 films during this festival; Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg, 2014), Nanga Parbat (Nanga Parbat, 2009) and of course, Beloved Sisters (Die geliebten Schwestern, 2014), the Opening Night Film in both Melbourne and Sydney.
As an aside, actress Hannah Herzsprung who plays Caroline is also starring in 'Who Am I' - No system is safe, which I've seen, and also screens at this festival. As a matter of fact it was Florian who pointed it out to me.
I'm definitely a fan after meeting the man (Florian). He was so easy to talk to and tells me he has always wanted to be in films as far back as he can remember. There was a crowd milling around for their turn to take pictures with Florian and who could blame them. I think I came away a little in love with his easy smile, friendly demeanour and youthful looks that has him looking 10 years younger than he is.
Below is the trailer to the film and a link to the interview via Soundcloud with Florian Stetter by Peter Krausz, renowned Australian film critic. In this interview, Peter delves into details about Florian's career and some background information about this film, Beloved Sisters. I also leave you with a few images from opening night of this festival.
For yet another way to enjoy this Audi Festival of German films, check out the Soul Kitchen Event which is being put on by new festival supporters Hophaus . It's essential to book and get your tickets which you can do RIGHT HERE.
If you still don't have a festival program (there's hundreds at Palace Como), download it right HERE.
Gabriele Urban (Goethe Institut Australien) and Peter Krausz - film critic, at the mic and Florian Stetter who stood in the shadows on stage as he said a quick hello. Capacity crowd at the Palace Como.
Main image: Dr. Arpad Sölter, Director of the Goethe Institut Australien (Melbourne) and actor Florian Stetter exchange name tags. LtoR below: Film Critic Peter Krausz and visiting journalist from Germany, Peter Claus with Dr. Arpad Sölter. Florian with guest Birgit Siegel and Goethe Institut's Gabriele Urban and my favourite moment captured of Florian and me deep in conversation. What a great night!