Documentary Films


A Film by Solveig Klaßen

co-produced by SWR and arte
in collaboration with the Filmstiftung NRW

DigiBeta / 59 minutes / stereo / color

Having two sets of twins only one year apart was a surprising but welcome development for Friedhelm Klaßen and his wife Evi. The German tabloids led with the story using a photo of the proud parents with their four daughters that they dubbed “”The House of Four Lasses”.

That was twenty years ago. The girls are now young adults, but they all still live at home with their parents in the southern German town of Germaringen. Sundays, when father Klaßen raises the Ferrari flag in the front garden of the terraced house and mother Klaßen and her daughters lay the table for coffee and cake with a view of the stately Ernst-Mosch-Villa across the way and the foothills of the windswept Allgeau alps in the background, it is the picture of a perfect idyll. But the atmosphere is in fact tense. 

Five years previously the family patriarch had suddenly become unemployed and now they all have to contribute to earning a living. An American direct marketing scheme for cosmetics had promised to end their financial worries, but it turned out to be a debt trap, bringing total financial ruin in the end. The daughters were liable for the loans, which they are still paying off when we meet them at the age of 21. As young adults, they would like to finally set out on their own life paths, but that could cause the family’s precarious financial house of cards to a fall.
In her impressive personal case study, documentary filmmaker Solveig Klaßen tells the story of a family at once unusual and perfectly ordinary. No aesthetic of unemployment, no stock market crash collateral damage here. Instead we gain insight into the daily fight for material survival, the constant fear of descending a few rungs in the social pecking order, and the inner repression and self-deception all that evokes. With a critical but loving eye, Solveig Klaßen delivers a moving and often humorous portrait of the dissolution of the archetypal middle class patriarchal family.

Klaßen herself is the fifth daughter in “The House of Four Lasses”. The eldest, to be exact – her father’s first daughter from a previous marriage before he married Evi and had the double twin births with her. Solveig grew up with her mother in Munich but did babysitting duty for her four half-sisters in the summer vacations and left home early to go her own way.

Now she has returned as a filmmaker. Of course there is friction with her father, who styles himself in the role of the monolithic rock promontory weathering the battering storm waves of the financial crisis. Inflexible to the point of ignorance, he tries to ignore the creeping erosion around him. Klaßen finds the actual cohesive core of the family in her father’s second wife and her daughters, who have managed to maintain their good humor and lust for life in the face of all adversity.

Writer / Director: Solveig Klaßen
Producer: Carl-Ludwig Rettinger
Commissional Editor: SWR - Ulrike Becker, arte – Ulle Schröder
DoP: Lutz Reitemeier
Sound by: Michael Bartylak
Editor: Jaqueline Weiss