Dasy and Viola are teenage siblings who’re joined at the hip. And no, that’s not a metaphor. From Stuck on You all the way back to Todd Browning’s classic Freaks, conjoined twins have long proved fertile ground for cinema. Edoardo De Angelis’ Indivisible joins them, taking us on a subtly surreal tour of Italy’s grimy industrial south: a grimy land of burning trash and abandoned warehouses, populated by a gallery of grotesques eager to get their claws into Dasy and Viola (Angela and Marianna Fontana).
Blessed with both beauty and perfect harmony, the twins are breadwinners for their extended family – available to hire for children’s parties, weddings, baptisms and so on. Scumbag father Peppe (Massimiliano Rossi) is their Svengali, providing them with a songbook full of treacly pop songs, most of which are about the importance of unity and/or female submission.
Also on board is their perpetually stoned mother Titti (Antonia Truppo), a sinister priest who uses the girls as a religious icon, a pervert record producer (who maintains an off-shore fetish yacht) and a coterie of uncles who just hang around for no apparent reason. But to their consternation, the gravy train is threatened with derailment when a doctor explains to the girls that, contrary to what their father has always told them, it is indeed possible for them to be separated.
The revelation ignites a powderkeg of conflict. Dasy is the more headstrong of the twins and eager to undergo the procedure, dreaming of escaping to Los Angeles and experiencing romance on her own terms. Viola is more pious and submissive, paranoid that she’ll be left alone after the operation. But their right to make this decision is quickly over-ridden by their manipulative father, whose gambling and boozing lifestyle is supported by their effective enslavement. Can the twins escape their father’s clutches and make it to the surgery in Geneva?
Indivisible is layered with lurid, toxic waste textures. The film opens with a fantastic tracking shot that shows three women returning in the early morning from a wild night of partying. As the sunrise creeps over the horizon it illuminates pale, brackish sands studded with burning trash – the location looking practically post-apocalyptic. The rest of the film takes place around cracked asphalt, graffiti smeared walls and weed-riddled brownland. Here, the characters are dwarfed by the rusted hulks of long-since-abandoned industry, their cheap synthetic clothing making them look like refugees from a John Carpenter film.
Dasy and Viola are the only glimmer of light in this hellscape. Their desire to separate thus becomes a tug of war between the community’s need to have an icon to worship and the twin’s desire for individuality. Indivisible comes down firmly on the twins’ side, the result of an obvious close creative collaboration between writer/director and performers.
De Angelo uses the Fontana twins existing relationship as a character foundation. Their casual intimacy, micro-reactions to each other and ability to combine into a single character when needed goes a huge way to convincing us that this is how adult conjoined twins would behave. But Indivisible doesn’t succeed merely by convincingly simulating conjoined twins – it succeeds because both Marianna and Angela are blisteringly excellent young actors.
Midway through the two sisters turn on one another, their resentment, exhaustion and separation anxiety boiling over as one sister grabs a piece of jagged metal and threatens to separate them on the spot. Fear and anger intertwine with each other as the tension builds, underscored by the emotions of the one sister having direct physical consequences on the other. We find the pair caught in a feedback loop of emotion – a performative moment that underlines what their closeness really means and why they must separate in order to realize their worth as individuals.
They’re two practically perfect performances, all the more impressive for this being the pair’s screen debut. The supporting cast are no slouches either, as Massimiliano Rossi, Gianfranco Gallo and Gaetano Bruno delivering heightened, gently caricatured performances that create the atmosphere a modern, urban fairytale.
All that makes it a bit unfortunate that the film unravels a bit in the final act. Up to a certain point events have been proceeding fairly organically, and suddenly we’re confronted with a bonkers sex yacht featuring circus characters breastfeeding each other. It feels like the B-reel from a Marilyn Manson video and overeggs the pudding a bit. That leads into an abstracted near-death experience after which a good deal of character clarity is lost.
It’s always a shame when a promising film doesn’t quite stick the landing, but Indivisible is still undeniably a striking bit of work.
Indivisible is a beautifully performed and ambitious, but ultimately flawed neo-gothic, conjoined twins Italo-indie drama.