Don’t be fooled by the sun kissed exteriors, the glam dresses and the potentially gimmicky premise, Indivisible is a quietly disturbing drama about a pair of conjoined twin singers and their struggle to break free from the parents that exploit them and a community and industry that may only value them for what they don’t want to be.
Attractive sisters Daisy and Viola (Angela and Marianna Fontana) are a singing act with a novel hook, they were born, and remain, attached at the hip. Their boorish, draconian father Peppe (Massimiliano Rossi) manages their career with an iron fist while using their income to support his gambling habit.
Neither he nor wife Titti (Antonia Truppo) have any qualms about trotting their 17-year old daughters around like circus freaks, even conning a devoutly religious public into believing the sisters have been divined as some kind of real life talisman.
The sisters catch the eye of a visiting doctor who confidently tells the girls what we the audience suspect from the start – a simple operation could easily be performed to separate the twins.
The prospect of such unprecedented freedom is pounced upon by Daisy, who has barely kept her raging hormones in check recently, but sees no way of having a normal sex life while literally attached to Viola. Viola, in contrast, fears she will lose her sister once they are separated.
Unsurprisingly, Peppe is dead against the idea of an operation, and has in fact avoided the option for years, knowing it will mean the end of his cash cow. Cruelly, he tells his daughters their physical novelty is the only thing that makes them special and once they are normal, no one will love them.
Thus begins the power struggle between the breadwinning daughters and their oppressive father. Viola and Daisy must contend with emotional blackmail, community expectations, burgeoning first love, a cut-throat, fickle industry and the fear of the great unknown as they contemplate their identities as individuals and their bond as sisters.
What begins as a seemingly light diversion about a novelty act cabaret slowly and subtly evolves into a surprisingly dark drama. Writer director Edoardo De Angelis handles the tonal shifts well and garners great performances from all concerned, particularly the (non-Siamese) Fontana twins and Rossi as their father.
The juxtaposition of slums and idyllic locations just north of Naples adds to the unsettling nature of the film’s themes and there’s some dreamily seductive music used to great effect between Enzo Avitabile’s chintzy Italian songs performed by the sisters.
Indivisible is never less than engrossing, delivering more than a one-sentence synopsis may suggest. It threatens to go in some melodramatic directions in the second half, but De Angelis steadies the ship for a powerful denouement.
Indivisible is currently screening at the Italian Film Festival
Richard Leathem @dickiegee