My Sister Maria
Maria Schell, a beautiful and talented girl born to a family of artists, a renowned actress and darling of the public enjoyed an unparalleled career for a German actress. Despite a glamorous acting career with over seventy feature film appearances, alongside such legends as Oscar Werner, Gary Cooper and Marcello Mastroianni and numerous awards and nominations, Maria Schell s life was filled with romances, loneliness, unrequited love, disappointments, debt, depression, suicide attempts and an unwillingness to grow old gracefully. Her brother and confidant, actor/ director/ co-writer, blends interviews with staged scenes in this examination of their personal relationship, expressing his great respect for her lifework and the regret he felt at her later failures.
MY SISTER MARIA is a thoughtful look backward, a summing up that attempts to understand what is ephemeral and what truly lasts, what it is that matters. In the final analysis, the intensity of feeling, the honesty involved, capture us. That this is who Maria Schell is here and now, there can be no doubt. --Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES
To watch MY SISTER MARIA requires us to decide what we think a film is, what we think a documentary should do, how far we think art justifies its cost in human feelings. Those who think FAHRENHEIT 9/11 blurs the line between fact and interpretation have no idea how mysterious and challenging that line can become. The fundamental drama of MY SISTER MARIA takes place in our own minds, as we struggle with the enigma of viewing it. --Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN TIMES
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Top customer reviews
The movie treats her with great dignity and love. Although her son was not able to be there with her, she was surrounded by truly lovely people who cared for her a great deal, obviously keeping her fed and clothed. It showed them taking her for walks, and when the electricity failed one night, the whole family came to keep her company.
Her brother was portrayed as gladly resolving her debts, and the family screened her visitors, but did not rule her life, holding on to her every minute, oppressing her with their anxieties, as families can sometimes do.
The scene where the house caught fire seemed to be a dream sequence. The outside of the house was shown to be on fire, but she, curiously, was inside the house where the fire was safely contained in the woodstove. When she `fell' on the path where she walked every day, she had asked to be allowed to walk alone, and her teen-age niece was within yards to help her up.
I am glad I bought this film which turned out to be a wonderful experience.
It pretends to be a documentary, but it is totally scripted, totally staged, and feels totally false. It also pretends to be a tribute to Maria Schell by her younger brother Maximilian, and it is filled with so many clips from her old movies that it could make even a devoted fan pray for relief - but in actual interactions between the siblings he's so critical of her and so overbearing that it borders on abuse. Even the supposed ravages of her old age are faked and exploited for the camera, which is really infuriating.
This is a phony, cloying, suffocatingly obsessive movie that indulges Max Schell's obvious obsession with older German female movie stars. It's much like his equally creepy and equally phony "filmed" interview with Marlene Dietrich (only the audio is Dietrich; the video is faked with stand-ins), made practically against her will a couple of decades earlier, not long before she died.
After watching this supposed tribute, I cared less about Maria Schell than I did before, and I lost what little respect I still had for her brother. He was fabulous in Judgment at Nuremberg, but he's come a long way down in the five decades since then.
When I started watching the film, I thought that the elderly woman on the screen was a stand-in, because she was totally unrecognizable to me. It became apparent, it was ACTUALLY Maria Schell. We as viewers, bear witness to how cruel old age can be. I admit, that some of the things that Ms. Schell was doing made me uncomfortable. Some of the situations are obviously staged. But in any event, I thought if someone was doing irrational things, you'd get a caretaker. There's a scene in the film, where Maria is walking on a snowy path alone, and she falls. My first thought was, why wasn't anyone holding on to her, if she was that unsteady? Why would you comprise a loved one's safety for the sake of art? Another scene has Maria sitting in front of 11 television sets, watching her old films. Again, I was thinking, why isn't anyone taking this woman out for stimulation? Unfeeling of the family, to just let her vegetate. There is a scene where Ms. Schell's property is being attached for unpaid bills. She is then shown on the telephone ordering two huge chandeliers, again unsupervised. The scene that disturbed me the most, was when she was lighting a fire in the fireplace by herself, and she lights a newspaper to start the fire, and accidentally drops it into a pile of wood next to the fireplace. We then see the house in flames. What was the family thinking???
My impression after the film ended was, yes, the family took some notice after she lost her fortune, but too little, too late. Her children should have been more attentive. She was crying for help, but no one was paying much attention to her. Or were they neglecting her because she wasn't around while they were growing up? It was said that she was too busy with stardom when they were young. Absolutely heart wrenching.
Some have said that Maximilian Schell filmed this out of spite, because of professional jealousy, or was just bitter because he had to come to his sister's rescue, financially. Could be. I didn't think it was fair to show a helpless elderly woman, getting herself into trouble, after leading such a charmed life. This documentary really poses questions about the motive for painting such a horrible portrait of a once vibrant woman. Why didn't Schell let her die with dignity?
I do want to say, that this documentary is VERY well directed. Maximilian Schell, draws us in, and makes us care about this poor woman. I came out being more of a fan than I already was. It's difficult to hate this film with all of it's poignant scenes. But, the truth is, this could happen to us all, either with loved ones, or to ourselves.