Based on a Dutch bestseller, this saga of separated twins has the melodrama of a TV-movie but with WWII for a subject instead of the tabloid shocker du jour. But just as our lurid post-OJ chronicles double as national theater, this shallow tearjerker, popular
in Europe, is mainly interesting as a sign of continuing continental hunger for postwar catharsis.
Like a historical novel, the film shifts between the twins’ divergent fortunes after their mother dies, as world events encroach. Consumptive Anna is shipped off to a wealthy Dutch family, while Lotte is stuck with shitkicking German farmers.
Anna settles into a detached upper-class groove abroad and falls in love with the son of Jewish family friends; Lotte winds up servant to a countess and loves an Austrian conscript who joins the S.S. As the two reestablish contact, even Lotte’s relative indifference to Nazism can’t save the sisters from conflict, especially when Anna’s fiancée goes missing.
In its own way, Twin Sisters has as much to say about Hitler’s Germany as Downfall. The vanities and denials that fuel melodrama lie pretty close to the forces behind the complicity of ordinary 1930s Germans. And the film’s uneven acting and perfunctory direction probably matter little to the many European fans of the book, who can fill the void by drawing on their own scarred-over mess of guilt and rage about the period.
The film suggests as much with scenes of a tense present-day rendez-vous between the estranged, now middle-aged sisters; they wander in a park that might as well have the sign “Post-20th-century Moral Wasteland.” But for all the melodrama, the actual experience of Twin Sisters remains flat.
Opens May 7