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Twin Sisters

The set-up for the Oscar-nominated Dutch drama Twin Sisters (De tweeling) (2002) is positively Dickensian. After the death of their parents in 1926, two German twin sisters are separated at a young age. One, Lotte, suffers from consumption and is sent to live with a wealthy, Jewish Dutch family; the other, Anna, stays with poor relations in Germany on a muddy, brutal farm. Naturally, the course of the 20th century plays havoc with their lives. Separated first by tragedy, then by history, and again by memory, they come together at a present-day spa where Anna has tracked Lotte down in order to come to terms with their lives. Flashing back to their past, the film shows how their initial situation determines the course of their lives. Anna (Sina Richardt), kept from school by her cruel adoptive family, finds work as a maid, eventually in the home of a wealthy German countess. Lotte (Julia Koopmans), meanwhile, gives piano recitals in genteel surroundings. While Anna, exposed to Nazi propaganda, falls somewhat under its sway, Lotte and her family recoil in horror at the rise of Hitler. One the eve of World War II, Lotte visits Anna and is chilled by her anti-Semitic attitude, which prevents further contact between them for years. Lotte gets engaged to a nice Jewish boy, while Anna marries an Austrian who becomes an SS officer. Needless to say, the war brings sadness to them both in different, but universal, ways. Although the story of Twin Sisters — taken from a novel by author Tessa de Loo — can't resist the lure of melodrama on occasion (one tearful scene in a train station with swelling music is enough, thanks), director Ben Sombogaart keeps a tight rein on things overall. The historical depictions are convincing, the parallel narratives are never confusing, and the performances from the two actors playing the adult sisters are impressive. A feeble, predictable denouement is the major weak link in an otherwise handsome effort. Buena Vista's DVD of Twin Sisters presents the film in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), while the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track (in German and Dutch with English subtitles) is used effectively to suggest, without showing, air raids and other noisy intrusions into wartime daily life. No extras, keep-case.
—Marc Mohan

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