Twin Views of Altered Lives: A Triumphant Film
Author: gradyharp from United States
29 September 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
DE TWEELING (TWIN SISTERS), based on the highly successful novel by Tessa de Loo and adapted brilliantly for the screen by Marieke van der Pol, is assuredly one of the most touching films to date about the strength of family bonds decimated by the horrors of WW II. Director Ben Sombogaart follows Dutch writer de Loo’s lead in making this story about the differing fates of twin girls separated at the death of their parents more of a parallel tale than capitalizing on the grim reality of Hitler’s influence. The result is a cinematically magnificent, gently hued verismo style of film that succeeds even more in its impact than if it were constantly doused in the dark side of its subject.
Germany 1920. Lotte Bamberg (played by three actresses though a long life – child Julia Koopmans, young woman Thekla Reuten and aged woman Ellen Vogel) and Anna Bamberg (child Sina Richardt, young woman Nadja Uhl and aged woman Gudrun Okras) are inseparable twins at age six, living life to its fullest until suddenly both parents are gone and they are split up: the consumptive Lotte goes to live with her upper class Dutch aunt in Holland and the healthy Anna remains in Germany with her poor uncle on a pig farm. Lotte lives a life of privilege, recovers form tuberculosis, studies German at University and sings Schumann (‘Frauen Lieben und Leben’ appropriately!) accompanied by her soon to be husband David (Jeroen Spitzenberger) who happens to be Jewish. As the war threatens Hitler’s invasion on Holland, David is sent to Auschwitz and brokenhearted Lotte marries David’s kind brother and has a child. Meanwhile Anna leads an abused life on the poor and filthy farm, is beaten by her heinous uncle when she begins dating a young handsome Austrian Martin (Roman Knizka) and runs away to work as a maid. Martin believes in Socialism and joins Hitler’s army, and is killed.
Throughout the years of separation each twin writes to the other but their guardians for varying reasons never mail the letters. Anna finally finds Lotte and they have a brief time together in Lotte’s elegant surroundings. But when Anna observes German dinner guests berating Jews she flees. The two sisters find it difficult to separate the losses of their husbands: Lotte blames Anna’s siding with the Nazis as a cause of David’s death. Anna defends Martin’s role as one of idealism that had nothing to do with the genocide of the Jews. They part, seemingly to never meet again. But as old women bedraggled Anna seeks out the elegant Lotte and the two come to understand their opposite opinions of what the war did to destroy their happiness.
The entire cast is so fine that it is difficult to single any one actor out for distinction: this is truly ensemble acting. Never pushing the story to the edge of saccharine or excess of war violence, director Sombogaart keeps his focus on the dialogue between the sisters central, embroidered with the opposing dichotomies of class and political commitment visceral but understated. The cinematography of Piotr Kukla and the radiant musical score by Fons Merkies are astonishingly effective. This is one of the powerful movies about the Holocaust from an entirely different stance – one that grabs you by the heart and holds on for the 135 minutes of the film…and beyond. In Dutch, German and English with subtitles. Very Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
Nonsmokingladybug wrote in a comment to Oosterman Treats Blog yesterday the following:
” . . . . We streamed a movie on netflix called “De Tweeling” (Twin Sisters). Great movie, one of the foreign films that got awards her in the US. So worth watching, . . . . ”
Several scenes from that movie you can find on youtube.
Peter and I saw this movie several years ago. It is one of those movies that stay in one’s memory.