By Eva Rueschmann
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Extra info for Sisters on screen: siblings in contemporary cinema
25 Witnesses to one another's youthful passages into worldly experience and mature self-knowledge, sisters in adulthood often remain bound together through time and memory under the spell of their likenesses and their differences. Sisters' very importance to one another makes them more subject to scrutiny in the context of modern social relations. The sister bond, like all other kinds of intimate relationships in the modernist cinema, has fallen under the probing lens of the camera. As the films in this study show, that bond is multifaceted, characterized by pleasure and discord, fascination and anxiety.
More relevant is Lucy Fischer's influential essay, “Sisters: The Divided Self,” the only significant critical study of screen sisters besides Lefkovitz's. Fischer attempts to identify women filmmakers' critical subversion of classic Hollywood cinema, specifically by comparing the representation of the good/evil sister split in the subgenre of female twin melodramas of the 1940s with a feminist “countercinema” represented by Laura Mulvey's The Bad Sister (1983) and Margarethe von Trotta's Sisters.
Indeed, Armstrong is a brilliant orchestrator of the melodramatic mode, skillfully moving her audience along the film's emotional arc from the sisters' happy childhood to their shared grief over the death of sister Beth. Campion's approach in An Angel at My Table, however, owes a lot to modern tragicomedy, with its unexpected mix of pain and humor, and few episodes or even individual scenes in the film express a single mood or dramatic effect. Unlike Little Women, Campion's film provokes a range of emotional reactions by subtly maintaining a dual narrative perspective on its artist-protagonist.