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My Sister Maria (2002)

Meine Schwester Maria (original title)
Unrated | | Documentary, Drama | 1 March 2002 (Austria)
A gentle portrait by the famous German-Swiss-Austrian Hollywood actor Maximilian Schell about his no less famous sister Maria.


Maximilian Schell


Natalya Andreychenko (text "Brief an Maria") (as Natasha Schell), Maximilian Schell | 1 more credit »
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Maria Schell ... Herself
Maximilian Schell ... Himself
Gerhard Hannak Gerhard Hannak ... Himself
Harry Stuhlhofer Harry Stuhlhofer ... Himself
Elke Münzer Elke Münzer ... Herself
Egon Münzer Egon Münzer ... Himself
Gusti Münzer Gusti Münzer ... Herself
Falko Skrabal Falko Skrabal ... Himself (as Prof. Falko Skrabal)
Nastassja Schell Nastassja Schell ... Herself (as Nasti Schell)
Rochus Münzer Rochus Münzer ... Himself
Max Münzer Max Münzer ... Himself
Gitti Münzer Gitti Münzer ... Herself
Chrystal Höller Chrystal Höller ... Herself
Eligius Engelmayer Eligius Engelmayer
Heide Spitzer Heide Spitzer


Maria Schell: a glamorous name, a dream career, a tragic fate. Her career represents a fascinating chapter in German and international film history with compelling episodes and encounters with famous artist colleagues. Memories of global successes become faint: DIE RATTEN (THE RATS), WEISSE NÄCHTE (WHITE NIGHTS), DIE BRÜDER KARAMASOW (THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV). And then later the all too familiar pattern: The difficulties when a star used to success is forced to find a new role, when offers fail to materialize and the public's interest wanes; how does that often sought euphemism go: «with her [...] things have been somewhat quieter recently». Then the breakdown in her private life, calls for help, alarm signals. «The first death»: that's what Maria Schell calls her act of desperation from 1991. MY SISTER MARIA is meant to take inspiration from his famous Oscar-nominated documentary film MARLENE. A remarkable portrait of Marlene Dietrich, who allowed him to interview her with audio tape ...

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Documentary | Drama


Unrated | See all certifications »



German | English | Russian

Release Date:

1 March 2002 (Austria) See more »

Also Known As:

Ma soeur Maria See more »

Filming Locations:

Graz, Styria, Austria See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Edited from As Long as You're Near Me (1953) See more »


Concerto BWV 1042 in E major
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
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User Reviews

Unique and Deeply Moving Documentary Portrait of Maria Schell by Her Brother
9 November 2009 | by robert-temple-1See all my reviews

I have never seen a documentary quite like this one before. It is intensely personal and intimate, full of love, exasperation, devotion, despair, and hope, all mixed up together. In short, it is a portrait of the actress, the late Maria Schell, made in 2002, three years before she died at the age of 79. Naturally, there are many film clips of Maria's amazing acting career, intelligently edited together as part of the narrative of her life, and illustrating from fiction various real aspects of her story. Maria Schell was one of the most glorious presences ever seen on the screen, and had a personality and radiant smile so like an angel that it were as if a piece of Heaven had dropped down by accident, with her sitting on it, and she had to make the best of her exile on earth. In this respect she resembles only a tiny number of actresses in the history of the cinema, such as Hayley Mills and Margaret O'Brien, who had similar angelic qualities as children, and in the case of Hayley Mills, still does as an adult, both off-screen and on. (I met Margaret O'Brien a few times long ago, but as she was then so extremely shy and introverted, I was never able to get her to speak more than a few words, so cannot honestly say what she is really like, other than that she is very nice and extraordinarily quiet.) For reasons never explained in this film, Maria Schell entered a strange mental state because of some very severe brain damage late in life. Whether this was because she had a stroke or as a result of her abortive suicide attempt (caused by a disappointment in love, which is discussed in the film) we are not told. We see a great deal of her sitting up in bed with a beatific expression on her face, as if she were a saint who had forgotten her own name, and somehow mistakenly believed that she might once have been the actress Maria Schell. She speaks coherently and intelligently within certain limits, and has perfect recall of many past events. She watches her own movies over and over again in order to reclaim her memories, and says on film that by doing so she is able to recall everything to do with the shooting of every scene minutely. Her constant watching of herself thus seems less an exercise in vanity than an attempt to remember who she is and was. Her erratic behaviour is shown by the fact that she has ordered eleven Bang & Olufsen television sets to watch herself on, and often has several of them turned on at once. She has no sense of reality or responsibility concerning everyday life anymore, and she phones up stores and orders gigantic crystal chandeliers (two at once!), despite living in a small cottage, and other crazy things, and the people she phones do not realize she is out of touch with reality, so they put the orders through. She eventually goes bankrupt as a result of wild, truly insane, spending, on things she cannot even use, and her brother Maximilian only saves her from having all of her possessions sold at auction by bailiffs at the last minute. To call the situation extremely harrowing is an understatement. Poor Maximilian Schell! He adored his sister and appreciated her perhaps better than anyone, and yet in her damaged mental state she nearly drove him crazy. But how could he be cross with her when she sat up in bed (in between ordering chandeliers) with the face, glowing eyes, and wan smile of an aged angel? Dealing with Maria in that condition was a bit like trying to discipline a beloved dog who has just eaten the supper off the dining table, because how can you explain to the dog the significance of what he has done, the sanctity of the dining table, etc.? One way dogs are disciplined to stop them 'doing their business' on the carpet is you take them by the collar and push their nose down next to the droppings and say 'Bad!' very forcefully several times, and they generally get the message. That is called house-training. But how can you house-train a brain-damaged angel and stop her buying pairs of crystal chandeliers over the telephone as soon as you leave her house? Push her nose into a chandelier? How gruelling it is to watch Maria slowly try to walk a short distance along a path (in the Austrian mountains, where she lived), in good weather and in snow, marking her progress each time with a stick and trying to learn how to walk again. Each yard gained is a triumph. Anyone who has ever been really ill, even temporarily, knows about such things, and how an inch gained at enormous effort is really a mile. At one point, Maria falls face down in the snow and lies there as if she were in Heaven, still beatific in her expression. This film is a film of adoration and testimony by Maria's nearest and dearest, her totally devoted and adoring brother, who has the advantage of having spent a lifetime in films and knew how to make the film. It is an amazing achievement, very painful to watch, but also uplifting in the awareness we derive of the power of the highest form of sibling love to ennoble and transcend, to soar above the limits, and to achieve the angelic level, where Maria Schell's true existence seems always to have been and belonged. Of Maria Schell, one is tempted to say with awe: 'She came and lived amongst us for a time, and then was gone.'

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