Arts Festival

Ultimate betrayal

THE end of the world: Sven (Lars Eidinger) contemplates a betrayal beyond his wildest expectations, in ‘My Little Sister’, which features on this year’s European Film Festival South Africa. Photograph courtesy imdb

WHEN YOU ARE confronted with the idea of losing your person, you will turn into a demon if you have to. You will break heaven and earth with the hope that these combats may twist the path of the stars. Even if you know that you are just a mere mortal and your fists are small in the face of infinity. My Little Sister, featuring Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger is a powerful work about sibling love, sacrifice and betrayal which will be available online and without cost, as part of the 8th European Film Festival South Africa, which runs from 14 until 24 October 2021. Bookings open on 13 October.

This tale of twins, Lisa (Hoss) and Sven (Eidinger) is woven intimately around the theatre industry. She is a playwright; he a performer. And in the face of his illness, she, born two minutes after him, takes on the monumental mantle of his medical needs, their mother who is cold to his pain, and her marriage which is in the balance. Featuring a breath-taking metaphor of paragliding in the snow which elegantly touches the space between life and nowhere, it’s a story about the difficulty of terrible anniversaries and creative blocks as it is one about two loving siblings getting lost in a forest and finding false succour in a house of chocolate.

Blending the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in its grand narrative, but also in the interstices of its smaller plots, this is a rich and complex story about loss. It’s also about the complicated selfishness implicit in disease and the give and take surrounding the brokenness of a body’s self-image after chemotherapy. But more than any of this, My Little Sister focuses unforgettably on the dangerous sacredness of being terminally ill. It’s like becoming untouchable. No words help. Other relationships get put on hold or broken irrevocably.

Betrayal is a thematic thread that flows and splits and plaits itself again through the work. Sven has played Hamlet 357 times in his career. He is now ill. When the theatre with which he was working changes its plans and shuts a door in his face, it feels like a betrayal. When he looks at his body in the mirror, it feels like another. To say nothing of his mother’s cigarettes, his lover’s absence. It is his sister who puts everything she can into believing in him and his future, she is the only one who holds the flag up for him. But the odds are stacked in too many directions for her to win.

The plot of this work could be reflected with great cliché and precious one-sidedness, labelling the sufferer as the person with the moral upper hand, because of their suffering. But it doesn’t. It offers valid positions for each of the central characters: the theatre director with an audience to answer to; the husband with a career path to fit; and the sister who wants the best for her brother. You, in the audience, are able to stand in the shoes of each, and weep for the unrelenting situation they face. Fate, of course, makes mockery of everyone; death comes as it must.

My Little Sister is directed by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond and is performed by a cast headed by Jens Albinus, Isabelle Caillat, Paulo dos Santos, Pierre-Isaïe Duc, Lars Eidinger, Moritz Gottwald, Dominique Gubser, Jenna Hasse, Nicolas Hislaire, Nina Hoss, Urs Jucker, Marthe Keller, Jenny König, Linne-Lu Lungershausen, Thomas Ostermeier, Stefanie Günther Pizarro, Leon David Salazar, Valerio Scamuffa, Noah Tscharland and Leili Yahr. Written by Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, it is produced by Ruth Waldburger and features creative input by Christian Garcia (music), Filip Zumbrunn (cinematography), Myriam Rachmuth (editing), Marie-Claude Lang-Brenguier (production design) and Anne Van Brée (costumes). In German and French with English subtitles, it is part of the 8th European Film Festival South Africa, screening online and without cost from 14-24 October 2021. Bookings open on 13 October.

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