Margarethe von Trotta came into her own as one of the most important voices of the New German Cinema with her second film, Sisters, or the Balance of Happiness, a work she once described as "a soul painting." Maria (Jutta Lampe), a coldly efficient executive secretary to a big-wheel tycoon, tries to impress her own ambitions and drive for success on her fragile sister, a sensitive art student who becomes smothered by Maria and takes her own life. Avoiding her feelings of guilt and loss, Maria takes on a surrogate sister in the form of a young typist in the secretarial pool and begins grooming her for success, deaf to the girl's personal ambitions and interest in a life outside of a job definition. Evocative compositions and von Trotta's growing visual style give a cinematic dimension to the exploration of the social web, and Lampe's intense performance centers the film as her goal-oriented professional is finally forced to confront herself and find the elusive "balance of happiness" that will bring her in touch with her dead sister. Less didactic and more introspective than her first film, The Second Awakening of Christa Klages, this is the work that brought her to the attention of the international film scene and marked her as one the most exciting and committed directors of her time. --Sean Axmaker
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