Eye For Film >> Movies >> Indivisible (2016) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
It has been 12 years since Brothers Of The Head, so the time is right for another film about conjoined twins exploited by the music industry. This time it's not punk rock but, at least initially, the religious entertainment business of southern Italy. Viola (Angela Fontana) and Daisy (Marianna Fontana) have made their parents and priests a good amount of money with their singing at weddings, confirmation ceremonies and similar events. People also pay money to touch them because they are supposed to represent a miracle, capable of bringing good luck.
On some level the girls, who are about to turn 18, know this is a scam, but their father offers constant reassurances and tells them that saints didn't always know they were saints. They've been drifting along without thinking too hard about it for years. It's a different kind of touch who changes things - the touch of an English doctor who tells them that they don't seem to share any internal organs and he doesn't understand why they haven't been separated and given the chance to lead independent lives.
The fantasy normatively bodied people have that everybody born different would prefer to be like them is problematic, but sometimes it's true. For Daisy, the news is the final straw, convincing her that she has always been exploited, confirming her unhappiness in her family and her intense desire for an independent life. It's compounded by the interest of a music producer who seems interested in her as an individual woman instead of part of the package deal everyone has treated her as over the yers. For Viola, however, things look very different. She has found the strength to cope with the stressful aspects of their life through her emotional closeness to her sister, and she's afraid that if they are separated then Daisy will leave her behind.
Tensions over separation are not limited to the girls themselves, nor to surgical procedures. Their parents continually row and seem to be together only out of habit. Their father and uncle are intensely focused on the duty of each member to the family unit, and warn them - bright, talented young women that they are - that if they weren't conjoined, nobody would consider them to be worth anything. They are surrounded by hypocrites of one sort or another, not least in relation to religion, which permeates everything.
Rather than exploiting the girls' difference, this is a film that gives voice to complex concerns about disability, selfhood, and what it means to be excluded from social norms. Daisy's fierce desire for independence is as much social as physical, but the roots of both are closely bound together. We see events very much from the girls' point of view, so never lose sight of the way they are fetishised (in both popular senses of the word) and objectified, nor of the damaging effect it has on them.
Although Daisy is very much the dominant character, both girls give powerful performances. There is no danger of viewers failing to understand that they are two distinct people. Viola is equally complex, and Angela Fontana has the more difficult character arc to navigate as she realises that their differences in attitude to physical separation reveal how far apart they already are in other ways.
An emotionally intense drama with moments of black comedy and a structure that resembles a religious parable, Indivisible is the best film to come out of Italy this year, and well worth seeking out.Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2017
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