Review: A Tale of Three Sisters – Kiz Kardesler (2019)

A Tale of Three Sisters – Kiz Kardesler (2019)

Directed by: Emin Alper | 108 minutes | drama | Actors: Cemre Ebuzziya, Ece Yüksel, Helin Kandemir, Müfit Kayacan, Kayhan Açikgöz, Kubilay Tunçer, Basak Kivilcim Ertanoglu, Hilmi Özçelik

A small village in the mountains of Anatolia (Turkey) is the setting for the magnificent looking ‘A Tale of Three Sisters’. You can vividly imagine that if you live here as an ambitious young woman, you are very unhappy: there is little or no prospects for the future, the winters are relentless, but oh, what a picture it is from your safe (cinema) seat.

Three sisters reunite in the modest home of their father, Şevket. Mother has since passed away and the sisters were sent away after her death to work as beslemes (at the same time foster daughter in a wealthy family as a domestic help or nanny). Reyhan, the eldest of the couple, was sent away by doctor Necati’s family when she became pregnant. When she returned home, her father married her off to the local shepherd Veysel, who liked to make fun of himself. It’s obviously an unhappy marriage, but the loveable Reyhan is in love with her adorable baby son and has big plans for him. Those plans are brushed aside by her father.

The film starts when youngest sister Havva returns to the village. She was sent back because the child she was supposed to care for has died. Not long after, Nurhan rejoins her family. She succeeded Reyhan in the Necati family, but she was too aggressive with the children and so there is no place for her in her foster family. The sisters and father must now adjust to their new situation. There’s a lot of arguing in ‘A Tale of Three Sisters’ as they are all stubborn characters, especially Father and the two eldest daughters, although Havva also lends her voice in a scene about washing sheets. She wants to wash them now because they are black, Reyhan indicates that it has not been two months since they were washed, so there is no question that this heavy task – by hand of course – is done.

‘A Tale of Three Sisters’ is actually the reverse of the usual coming-of-age films in which young people dream of a chance to leave the old, familiar (and unsatisfactory) behind and to which the entire print is worked towards. In this film by Turkish filmmaker Emin Alper, the young women have already had their chance and blew it. They are once again trapped in a male-dominated world in which they themselves are considered only suitable for household chores and taking care of the meals.

The time in which the film takes place is not immediately clear, there are no electrical appliances and only a few cars are driving. The occasionally appearing couple of tumbling woman gives the film a magical realistic touch, but the meaning of her observing character is not really clear. ‘A Tale of Three Sisters’ offers beautiful panoramas of the Turkish landscape, natural and captivating acting by the entire cast, but on the narrative level the film is a bit stuck. And after the predictable dramatic event in the last piece, the film finally goes out like a candle.

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