I finally got a chance to see Beloved Sisters (2014), the story of the (supposed) love triangle between Romantic-era German writer Friedrich Schiller, his wife Charlotte, and her sister Caroline. Set in the late 18th century (it begins in about 1788) and going through the early 1800s, it’s an interesting story that manages to be romantic, sad, and beautiful all at the same time.
Charlotte and Caroline von Lengefeld are the daughters of a minor aristocratic family that is very literary and Romantic. Charlotte is dutiful and quiet, Caroline is passionate, both are interested in poetry and love and nature, and they adore each other. At the beginning of the film (1786ish), Caroline has been married off to save the family’s fortunes (the father died while the girls were young), and Charlotte is sent off to stay with her aristocratic godmother at the court of Saxe-Weimar in the hopes that she’ll learn court ways and make a good match.
Charlotte hates court life and isn’t successful marriage-wise, but she meets budding poet/philosopher/Renaissance man Friedrich Schiller. When she returns home to her family, Schiller comes to visit, and falls in love with both sisters, who (led by passionate Caroline) encourage this situation. The two sisters are happy to share everything, and Charlotte feels that she owes Caroline because Caroline married a man she can’t stand in order to save the family’s finances.
Eventually, Charlotte marries Friedrich, and then life’s complications ensue…
At one point, the sisters rescue Schiller from a river — a little girl sees a dog floating past, she goes in after him and starts drowning, and Schiller (who can’t swim) goes in to rescue HER. The focus of the scene is on the saving of Schiller (and the little girl), but WE NEVER FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG. I know it’s just fiction, but I will spend the rest of my life worrying about that dog.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I’ll leave it there and get to the good stuff: costumes!
Costumes in Beloved Sisters
Overall, the costumes (designed by Barbara Grupp) were nicely done, if a little casual. The women’s dresses could have used some more petticoats and a bum pad or two, but things weren’t as pared down as the costumes in Poldark. They definitely captured the transition towards Regency wear that happens in the 1790s, although they just went for it a little bit earlier than they should have. However, the casual feeling of the clothing worked well when they were showing the Romantic world that Schiller and the sisters inhabited.
Where it didn’t work quite so well was when Charlotte was supposed to be at the Weimar court. Now, this is a small German duchy, not Versailles, but there’s a lot of emphasis on how this is Court and how Charlotte hates the artifice of it all. But that doesn’t read so well when the court people are dressed in the same casual, simple style that is worn in the country:
There were also some costumes that seemed awfully fashion-forward for 1788-1790ish:
Later scenes are in the late 1790s and 1800s, so you see the transition into Regency wear:
There was at least one recycled costume from The Duchess, and another that pings my “Haven’t I seen that before?” button:
There were some good and bad things about the women’s underwear:
Caroline got some REALLY good hats:
Some of the women’s hairstyles were great, and then suddenly they’d get very faux:
There’s a cute scene where the sisters dress up as men, so they can hear Schiller’s first university lecture:
So if you like this era, and you like films that aren’t all bunnies and happiness, check out Beloved Sisters! You’ll be glad you did.