Every so often, someone, usually a European, cuts loose with a frothy literary bodice-ripper like Dominik Graf’s promising-looking Beloved Sisters, in which a pair of luscious German aristocratic sisters gets into a ménage-à-trois with renowned poet Friedrich Schiller in the late eighteenth century. Of course nothing good — other than one or two joyous romps in the sack — can ever come from such a union, but we live in hope.
Writer-director Graf takes the high road in the story of Caroline von Beulwitz (Hannah Herzsprung) and her younger sister Charlotte von Lengefeld (Henriette Confurius) and their free-spirited bohemian partner Schiller (Florian Stetter) — meaning no orgies, only a bit of surreptitious snuggling and bed-hopping, placed like bacon bits in the mashed potatoes of Graf’s circumspect observation of manners and mores.
Caroline, nicknamed Line, is in a loveless marriage to an absentee husband who nevertheless supports the girls and their meddling-but-penurious mother (Claudia Messner) in the style to which they have become accustomed. Charlotte, aka Lollo, strikes up a scandalous friendship with handsome “Fritz” Schiller one afternoon in Weimar. At first, Line is shocked by Lollo’s licentiousness (“Women can’t offer themselves like sour milk,” she grumps), but after the persuasive Fritz treats them to some country weekends and an earful of romantic poetry, the sisters hatch a plan. Lollo marries Fritz and they secretly share him. Thus Line’s husband will continue his support and all is well, at least until Line begins to publish writing of her own.
The long drama is split into two sections. Part one is exhilarating, with the sisters encouraging Schiller’s role as a standard bearer for “new ideas” in the time of the French Revolution — plus a little sex. Part two has more in common with a soap opera. Michael Wiesweg’s camera work in the grandiose Thuringer countryside is beautiful to gaze upon, but we wait in vain for that bout of unrestrained passion to put an exclamation point on the threesome.