Margarethe von Trotta – Schwestern oder Die Balance des Glücks AKA Sisters,or the Balance of Happiness (1979)


Sisters Maria and Anna live together. Maria is a most proficient executive secretary, encouraging Anna to finish her studies and start a career…

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Subtitles:English, hard subs

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  • Margarethe von Trotta’s “Sisters or the Balance of
    Happiness” (1979) at
    first looks like a film about personal relationships between several characters,
    but it quickly becomes von Trotta’s research into a fundamental problem of a dangerous
    disproportion in today’s Western societies between orientation on social
    exteriority – on pragmatic and “instrumental” aspects of life, and dedication
    to psychological interiority – to the life of the soul and the psychological
    and spiritual development. A lack of attention towards and investment in
    development of people’s internal world is shown by the director as a totalitarizing
    influence inside democracy, making our world the one where established forms of
    life successfully block potentials for change and effectively dominate
    criticism (playing in relation to alternatives the role of a stubborn conservative
    despot). In these circumstances to be able to overcome our own conformism and
    one-dimensionality of our way of life is almost an impossible task. Only a self-inflicted
    death terminating one relationship, and dramatic impossibility to continue another
    ones force the heroine of the film to start to learn how to appreciate and celebrate
    human dissimilarity and to be dedicated to otherness of other people without
    stopping to be herself.

    Maria, the personal
    secretary of the CEO of a global corporation is a kind and responsive person and
    an exemplary employee. After the death of her and her sister’s father and a prolonged
    depression of their mother, she tries to help and to care about her younger
    sister. But Anna is not like Maria. She has her own ideas about life; she
    disagrees with the technical science’s approach to the world (ignoring the destruction
    of a life supporting environment and more and more serving the interests of
    financial elite). She becomes more and more critical about the direction of the
    human civilization and stops her studies promising a good employment and career.
    Maria doesn’t understand Anna’s problems – for her the world is what it is, and
    to adapt to it and take advantage of what it offers is a sign of maturity and being
    responsible person. Soon Anna feels so marginalized by society that she
    psychologically regresses and becomes too fixated on Maria. Maria is almost
    destroyed not just by Anna’s suicide but by the fact that she didn’t understand
    the seriousness of Anna’s condition and couldn’t help her on time.

    After Anna’s death
    Maria befriended Miriam, a girl who is very different from Maria and from Anna,
    but, once again, unresponsive to the otherness of the other person, she is unable
    to appreciate Miriam’s subjectivity and to address it. Von Trotta makes a
    classification of the types of males in today’s society and elaborates a
    sophisticated symbolic visual language of humorous or ironic depiction of the film’s
    male characters. The style of acting is existential, not situational, and we
    feel every person we see as his/her own history. Jutta Lampe proved herself as
    a movie actress of international recognition. She personifies not only feminine
    intelligence, but its potentials.

    Victor Enyutin