Directed by: Ben Sombogaart
Starring: Sina Richard, Julia Koopmans, Thekla Reuten, Nadja Uhl, Ellen Vogel, Gudrun Okras
I don’t for a moment doubt the sincerity behind this 2002 film version of a popular Dutch novel by Tessa de Loo. I cannot fault the performances of the lead performers. I can understand the film’s awards and nominations. I grasp the appeal of the scope of a story that follows the intertwined, yet separated, lives of twin sisters from childhood through young adulthood and World War II and on till old age. But there’s something about Ben Sombogaart’s Twin Sisters that simply doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s the intrusive imitation Michael Nyman score by Fons Merkies. Perhaps it’s the clumsiness of Sombogaart’s attempts at artsy intercutting to suggest the shared feelings of the separated twins (or maybe it’s the fact that this approach is dropped partway through the proceedings). Could it be the sometimes sloppy writing? (How else to explain Anna’s (Nadja Uhl) horror at learning that her sister’s Jewish fiancé has been sent to Buchenwald and her later claim that she had no idea what was going on in the concentration camps?) Whatever it is, it all feels a little too much saccharine and contrivance for my tastes, but bear in mind that this is a minority opinion.
Moreover, I can’t for a moment claim that this is a bad film. It’s not. It’s generally well made (at least when Sombogaart doesn’t try to get too artistic) and the characters are themselves interesting. Certainly their bizarre fates—one child left to a cruel farming family in Germany and the other carted off by rich quasi-intellectual relatives to Holland—are intriguing, with one marrying an SS officer, the other being engaged to a Jewish musician, and both losing their loves in the war. The material is rich and it hits all the right points. For me, though, it disappoints because I could never get away from the feeling that it hit those points less because it felt them than because it was following a recipe.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke