Turkish director Emin Alper returns with A Tale of Three Sisters. Presented in the 69th Berlinale’s main competition the film is a sombre fairy tale for adults. The kind to tell by the fireplace on a cold night, which is precisely what the characters actually do at one point, making one anticipate the imminent sound of pages turning and some soft-voiced narration. But Alper likes to hide in the dark, and for every moment of wonder, he digs out another that’s full of longing and pain, as the three sisters Reyhan, Nurhan and Havva (Cemre Ebüzziya, Ece Yüksel and Helin Kandemir) gather again in their village in the middle of nowhere.
They are all waiting, mostly for the same thing, but instead of Prince Charming, all they get is one chance to escape to the city – a bit like Chekhov’s Irina, “dreaming of Moscow every night”. But here, it arrives in the unremarkable shape of a prosperous doctor, looking for a live-in babysitter for his spoilt offspring and introduced already driving the second sister back home, after she unwisely dared to discipline them. This means the much sought-after slot is open again, paving the way for petty rivalries to run wild.
A Tale of Three Sisters is all about that longing for something – anything, really – when you don’t have many options left, save for the doctor’s house or some fleeting mention of an aunt in Ankara. But instead of pining, these girls still try to fight – mostly with their hot tempers and caustic tongues.
Marta Balaga, Cineuropa