When I recently compared "Country Life" with "Uncle Vanya", The Chekhov play from which it was loosely derived, the connection was at least tangible. Margaretha von Trotta's Italian version of "Three Sisters" contains so little of the original as to be barely recognizable. True, there are still three sisters and a brother, each unfulfilled in their various ways, but the Chekhovian leitmotiv of wanting to be somewhere else is never mentioned so that the main idea behind the play is missing. So forget Chekhov - at least there is a very fine filmed version by Laurence Olivier. Von Trotta's "Three Sisters" therefore has to stand as something completely different on its own terms. In actual fact it rather wobbles. This is one of those respectable European art-house movies with a few big names such as Fanny Ardant and Greta Scacchi to help it along. Its settings, a baroque university building and a misty flat landscape with sparsely planted trees give it a classy look. Its score, string music rather classically poised with just a hint of romanticism also contributes to the respectable aura. It all adds up to what a friend of mine delightfully dubbed "the Laura Ashley school of cinema". "Three Sisters" is worthy, nice to look at but ultimately rather dull. Only one character engaged my sympathy - the brother who is obliged to abandon his chance of a music career at the behest of his selfish wife and go into banking which he detests. I thought him a dope at first but felt like cheering when he finally rounds on her. For one brief scene this rather uninteresting film suddenly springs to life, but too late to prevent it from sinking is its inertia.
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