Thursday, 5 March 2009

Twin Sisters

Lowdown: Twin sisters find themselves on opposing sides during World War 2.
How many times can yours truly boast to have watched a Dutch film production? Well, as far as I can tell, up until I got to watch Twin Sisters last weekend the answer would have been 0. Thanks to SBS, though, I can now boast to have explored brand new realms. It really is good to have a public TV channel dedicated to bringing Australian viewers material from all over the world!
Twin sisters is a film from 2002 that tells the story of two German twin sisters born in the 1920s. Raised without a mother, they are pretty close to one another and to their father. Fate, however, kills their father through consumption before the opening credits are done; fate continues to split their kin souls apart. The healthy sister remains in Germany to live with her ignorant Catholic uncle who wants her as a working force on his farm and thus prevents her from going to school. The other sister suffers from her own consumption and is thus unwanted at the farm, so she gets to go to a Dutch branch of the family that is rich and caring enough to see her out of her disease.
The sisters grow up completely disconnected. The German sister doesn’t even have her sister’s address because the Dutch foster family doesn’t want the barbarians to be able to take the other sister away once she’s healed up, and for similar reasons the Dutch family avoids sending all the letters the Dutch sister sends her twin. As the years go by the Dutch sister becomes an authentic Dutch in behavior and speech, but underneath she still has a German label.
Then history takes over and Nazism rises. The German sister finds herself involved with Nazis even though she can’t care less about their agendas, while the Dutch sister falls for a Jewish guy. Just before the war erupts the two finally meet in Germany, being that they are old enough to take control over their own lives. The Dutch sister’s encounter with Nazism doesn’t leave her indifferent, and her sister’s passive cooperation with evil drives them apart. And then the war starts and the German sister marrying an SS officer further polarizes the relationship.
Told as flashbacks from when the two sisters meet as very old women in contemporary Europe, we learn about their circumstances and the effect these had on them over the years. The key question is, would things happen differently if the sisters were to switch places? This seemingly innocent question has severe implications, as they can be related to arguments saying the German people, in general, were innocent of the crimes committed by them. The present conciliation between the twins also serves to symbolize the present unification of Europe, with all of its attached disclaimers.
The problem with Twin Sisters is that it is all very intriguing. What’s so problematic about that? Well, it’s the type of intrigue that’s the problem. Essentially, Twin Sisters is a soap opera taking place around World War 2 and the Holocaust. As a soap opera, it doesn’t fail to use every cliché on offer through the war's circumstances in order to enhance its impact, but it does so without adding anything we haven’t seen before and in a way that drowns the good stuff. There is not much to learn here, not even on the Dutch’s point of view on the war. The philosophical questions mentioned earlier regarding the sisters’ fate is sunk between waves and waves of predictable clichés.
I guess this is a film that is aimed fair and square at women who like to read romantic novels.
Best scene:
Count the number of World War 2 movie clichés in the following description.
During the German occupation, the Dutch family hides a Jewish family at their place. Food is scarce, so they settle for minute amounts of stuff that looks like shit. Then, however, the Dutch sister learns her adopting father receives extra food from the resistance, meant for their refugees, that he keeps for himself.
Overall: Quite intriguing and dealing with potent stuff, but way too soapy for its own good. 3 out of 5 stars.

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