My Sister’s Good Fortune (1995)

Schanelec’s graduation feature sets her observant slow-cinema style in stone in this unconventional love triangle drama where the protagonist is torn between loving two women who are half-sisters. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,096

Dir. Angela Schanelec
1995 | Germany | Drama | 81 mins | 1.66:1 | German
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some coarse language and mature themes

Cast: Wolfgang Michael, Anna Bolk, Angela Schanelec
Plot: Christian is torn between two women, Ariane and her half-sister Isabel, each of whom offer him different forms of fulfillment.
Awards: –
Source: Shellac

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Relationships
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

There is nothing that might suggest this is a graduation film as a young Angela Schanelec sets in stone from the get-go her unique filmmaking style that would remain relatively unchanged for the next 25 years. 

Every bit feeling like her future features such as Passing Summer (2001) and Afternoon (2007), both in terms of aesthetics as well as thematic preoccupations, My Sister’s Good Fortune is an unconventional take on the love triangle drama as the protagonist, Christian, is torn between loving two women who are half-sisters. 

Schanelec plays one of the sisters, Isabel, who is a professional translator and is able to connect with Christian at an intellectual level; in contrast, Ariane is down-to-earth and shows her ability to take care of Christian’s emotional needs. 

As the narrative develops through Schanelec’s observant slow-cinema style, where each facial expression or gesture by the characters says a lot about their attitudes or hidden feelings, we become privy to Christian’s personal crisis of sorts as we adopt his precarious position in the siblings’ tug-of-war. 

As most arthouse films do, My Sister’s Good Fortune doesn’t give us any easy answers to relationship issues—we can only watch the proceedings unfold with the nuance and complexity of a real-life event. 

There are no winners or losers—in Schanelec’s brand of cinema, everyone is a victim of circumstance; rarely does anyone have any sense of agency, or even urgency, to change things. 

One of modern German cinema’s best-kept secrets, Schanelec’s films will bore the hell out of the uninitiated viewer; but for me, they are always riveting. 

There’s something so simple yet profoundly poetic about the way she frames her characters in their settings, be it in an apartment or along the streets, that holds my gaze for perpetuity.  Even Tsai Ming-liang can’t strike that kind of gold so consistently.  

Grade: B+

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