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:: Twin Sisters (De Tweeling)

“De Tweeling” (Twin Sisters), the new film by German director Ben Sombogaart, comes laden with credentials. Based on the book of the same name by Tessa de Loo that was a best seller in both Germany and the Netherlands, the film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Academy Awards.

The film follows the story of two little girls, Lotte and Anna Bamberg who are suddenly orphaned at the age of six years. On the deathbed of their parents, their remaining family fight over whom is to have them. The family’s compromise is to split them up so that each side can have one.

As Lotte is unwell she is taken by the wealthier family and raised in a privileged household in the Netherlands. Anna, the stronger of the two, remains in Germany and is brought up in a totally different environment to Lotte. She is forced to work rather than go to school and is brutally beaten by her uncle. Their new families resolve to keep them apart “for their own good” and thwart their attempts to contact each other. They spend the next 15 years thinking the other twin is either dead or has forgotten them.

Just as the girls reach an age where they discover the attempts by their relatives to keep them apart and finally re-unite, Europe is torn apart by the coming of World War 2. Just when it seems as though they will surely be together again, they become victims of circumstance. The inevitable tragedies of the war and of the men each of them love conspire to make their reunification impossible.

Needless to say, the war acts as a metaphor for the relationship between the girls as their entirely different upbringing mean that they can never see eye to eye, despite the fact that they are twin sisters.

Although more than a bit heavy handed with the level of sentimentality and the juxtapositions between the lives of the two girls, the acting throughout the film by the various women who play Lotte (Julia Koopmans, Thekla Reuten and Ellen Vogel) and Anna (Sina Richardt, Nadja Uhl and Gudrun Okras), holds the film together.

Particularly poignant in this day and age is the overwhelming feeling that you leave the film with, that war is totally and utterly pointless and that most things in life can be resolved with a little bit of effort, understanding and communication.