Film Reviews

The Heavenly Twins

The mysterious symbiotic relationship between identical twins is penetratingly rendered in Christa Ritter and Rainer Langhans' documentary, The Heavenly Twins. Gisela and Jutta Schmidt's unique synergy unfolds through candid interviews with these famous German sisters. It's supplemented with comments from friends, family and observers, and with photographs and home movies. In addition to the pull of their indivisibility, the film explores the fascinating lives of these one-time members of the cultural in-crowd.

How they manifest their bond is riveting. Breaking the silence of a quiet moment, they start talking about the same thing. When one says something emotional about herself, the other is also cut to the quick. For seemingly no reason, they get great enjoyment out of nothing apparent. They sit alike, fidget similarly, laugh identically. An ex-husband remarks that he could never really love the one he married because she "was only half a woman."

But the film is memorable -- unforgettable -- not only because of the pull of their indivisibilty; it looks as well at the fascinating lives of these one-time members of the cultural in-crowd. At age 19, they co-direct an award-winning documentary. The '68 revolution incites them to divorce their husbands on the same day. Jutta, searching for the inner self, turns to a mystical ex-revolutionary. Gisela, opting for the fast lane, marries Paul Getty III; when she divorces him, she splits the settlement with Jutta. Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Dennis Hopper, Leonard Cohen, Timothy Leary, are among the commentators.

So connected that they laugh when fighting, so depleted by the toll of their yoke that their striking beauty has worn away by the time they're 40, they describe their unconscious link as being "stuck in an orgasm": with no sense of release.

Arrogant because of their singular loveliness and intelligence, yet sympathetic because of how much they've suffered, these are two of the most interesting people I've ever encountered on screen, and The Heavenly Twins is one of the most revealing, intimate documentaries I've ever seen.

-- Peter Szatmary

The Heavenly Twins will show at 4 p.m. Sunday, December 5 at the Goethe-Institut, 3120 Southwest Fwy., Suite 100. Admission is free. Call 528-2787 for more information.

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Peter Szatmary