Switzerland | Germany 2020
Opening October 29, 2020
Directed by: Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond
Writing credits: Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond
Principal actors: Nina Hoss, Lars Eidinger, Marthe Keller, Jens Albinus, Thomas Ostermeier
The Swiss duo, Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, have written a hard story, and yet convey it beautifully, empathetically. Cinematic giants Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger, as twins living through a terrifying crisis, exquisitely portray the inexplicable yet intensely formidable bond twins have. Plus, sans melodrama, their nuanced, well-thought through characterizations encapsulate the feelings of frustration and helplessness brought on by circumstances.
Products of a theatrical family and in the prime of their lives, Sven (Eidinger), a famous thespian at Berliner Schaubühne has cancer whereas 2-minutes younger Lisa (Hoss), an established playwright, lives in Switzerland with her family. Currently Lisa is involved at the posh boarding school where Martin (Jens Albinus) is the director, while also mothering their two youngsters (Linne-Lu Lungershausen, Noah Tscharland). Lisa rushes to Sven’s aid, helping him transition from hospital into their mother’s (iconic actress Marthe Keller with perhaps the subtlest characterization switch) flat. Kathy praises her son’s Shakespearian acuity, alongside belittling Lisa’s perplexing modern works. Convinced Sven’s being onstage again will help, Lisa meets with the theater’s accomplished director David (Thomas Ostermeier, the actual Schaubühne director who has directed Eidinger there often); he hesitantly, cautiously semi-agrees. Stressed by Kathy’s attitude, the twins are compelled to rehearse in Switzerland; things come to a head when Sven’s cancer flares-up and the school offers Martin a new contract. Caught in an emotional vise, Lisa clings as Sven prods and they drift toward a kind-of peace.
Cinematographer Filip Zumbrunn’s hand-held camera’s blocked, fluid movements seize the cascade of emotions as characters confront long-festering individual and familial problems. Sparsely used, Christian Garcia’s music is good, while Myriam Rachmuth’s editing poise is commendable. Makeup artists Barbara Grundmann and Marc Hollenstein humanely depict Sven’s disease.
Schwesterlein’s gentle direction, and the sterling cast straightforward, compassionate portrayals leave audiences viscerally engaged. A quiet understanding of, and respect for, life’s infinite truths lingers long after leaving cinemas. Schwesterlein is Switzerland’s official nomination for the 93rd Academy Awards. German, French, English/German subtitles, 99 minutes ()