My Sister Maria ~ (France/Germany, 2002) ~ Netflix

Actor Maximilian Schell directed this documentary with poetic  license and the mix of interview, recreation, and film clips from Maria Schell’s’ career is masterfully edited – the use of film clips is superb. Schell’s heyday was in the post was era and the fifties, although she has credits right through the early 90’s. I can’t recall now if I ever actually saw her in anything, but I’m sure I did years ago.

This is a rather poignant, touching and frank portrait by Maximilian Schell of his sister who ran into financial trouble toward the end of her life. The ‘documentary’ (faux to me) has her brother bailing her out just one step ahead of the courts attaching all her worldly possessions for auction. She led an almost Sunset Boulevard like existence there toward the end, watching multiple tv’s constantly showing all her old film roles.

There is a doctor interview, a glimpse of a brain scan, but it’s never precisely clear what the cause of her decline is (except old age and a will to not live any longer (she had earlier attempted suicide) and her brother seems unwilling to give it a name. We can only say that Maria Schell passed away of pneumonia on April 26th 2005 – coincidentally precisely 7 years prior to the day I watch this film.

A big deal seems to have been made about this film as a deceptive documentary. Lots of hand wringing. Take it for what I believe it is: a creative imaging of the end days of a former film star. Fame gone, looks gone, fortune gone, memories intact after a fashion. I found the film well conceived and effective.


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