When Maria Schell retired to her parental homestead in the Austrian alps, her once so glamorous internationally acclaimed movie star life changed from stardom to quiet oblivion. There she occasionally met her family - and the bailiff. Her mental health made it difficult for her to make the difference between fiction and reality. She ordered several expensive TV sets, chandeliers and so forth, not realizing that she was flat broke. Generous to herself and friends alike, she spent millions until the sale by court order of all her belongings including the family homestead was imminent. It was her famous brother Maximilian Schell who at least wanted to save the farm and the surrounding land for the family. The debts were so high and the compulsory auction so near that he had to sell his beloved art paintings in order to gather the astronomical amount of money needed to avoid the loss of his and Maria's childhood home.
Maximilian Schell portrays this sad and obviously final episode of his beloved sister Maria's life in a very special docu-drama filled with retrospectives of her movie work. These movie clips are the bright side of her life, contrasting the real life, which was not so real to her anymore. Or was it? Maximilian reflects about the meaning of life and if his sister may have retired in a sort of mental way station claiming the paradise as long as she was living and not only after she would die.
This movie actually is an insider movie, a very personal treatment of a family tragedy and full of love, very soft-spoken. The warm and close relationship between brother and sister, both famous actors, is touching without being kitschy. It is knowingly heart-moving, though. The movie's red line is the short distance Maria is forced to walk from the living house to the "hut" where it all began, where her mother gave birth to her and her siblings. Maximilian urges her to walk this way every day and when she would finally reach the hut, everything would be OK. Throughout the movie we observe Maria Schell advancing step by step until she finally stays in front of a stove trying to make fire. She does not notice that she loses control over the fire. All is burning down.
Viewers expecting star chitchat will be disappointed as much as those tabloid story hungry masses who played the shocked ones when it turned out that the story of Maria Schell in poverty and mentally demented was true. Maximilian Schell's movie does not show this. It is a documentary, cleverly combined with quite obviously acted scenes. A set up, maybe the last camera, light, action for his sister. The film ends with Oliver's Theme, composed by Oliver Schell. It is a merry melody instantly returning the thoughtful viewers back to the really real life.
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