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‘Indivisibili’ Replaces Complexity with Easy Melodramatics

Though not a horror film or freak show comedy, Indivisibili is nevertheless exploitative and fetishistic. Following conjoined twins Viola and Dasy (named after the real-life Violet and Daisy Hilton, of Tod Browning’s Freaks [1932] fame), Edoardo de Angelis’ latest feature attempts to look at the girls’ struggle to be surgically separated. But with predictable plot, forced tragedy, and cartoonish characters, the film is painfully two-dimensional.

Real life twins Angela and Marianna Fontana play Viola and Dasy, respectively, as Indivisibili sees the sisters used by their parents for financial gain, paraded around religious events where they sing genuinely terrible songs and are allowed to be touched by spectators who believe the girls are miracles. Audiences come to fondle the skin which connects them, while the camera equally pauses upon that flesh, as though too startled to move. When a Swiss doctor arrives and states that Viola and Dasy could be separated, that their parents kept this information from them in the hopes of making money off of their daughters within religious pageantry, the sisters decide to embark on their own to achieve the surgery. With their father, Peppe (Massimiliano Rossi), having gambled away all their earnings, the girls turn to a sleazy singer named Marco (Gaetano Bruno) for help to pay their way.

In his director’s note, de Angelis has stated that he wanted to focus on girls who were “extremely beautiful and at the same time unsettling,” while trying to “balance attraction and repulsion” within his film. This sentiment, expressing that Viola and Dasy are essentially grotesque freaks meant to seduce you in a way that shakes you, is evident throughout the film. The girls are introduced in bed, Dasy masturbating but Viola moaning with pleasure as the camera slowly glides over the hip that connects them. But while de Angelis is intent on objectifying the twins, he wants to objectify them as freaks as well as beautiful women, and this is what colours the film’s aesthetics.

Throughout, de Angelis alternates between photographing the Fontanas for their allure and glamour, and focusing on the hip that he has given them, whether the piece of flesh is clothed or naked. Intrigued and disgusted by the disability of otherwise “perfect” women, de Angelis is more concerned with Viola and Dasy’s image than their personhood. This results in a visually flat film, which relies too heavily on the girls’ natural beauty and eschews anything creative or interesting in cinematic imagery; blandly photographing a beautiful woman (or two) is not enough to make a film interesting. This also results in a focus on predictable tragedy and cardboard-cutout characters, added in only to pad out the feature length exploration of how de Angelis finds conjoined twins hot and gross.

Peppe, the girl’s father, is the personification of seediness. Long greasy hair, tired eyes, constant aggression, and no qualms about exploiting his vulnerable family make him bad enough, but de Angelis adds on the gambling debt to render him a truly evil villain who, in the piling on of bad traits, feels less and less real or engaging. After escaping their family, Viola and Dasy travel on their own, and though brief, it is refreshing to see them in their own right. Not filtered through the lens of hardships which happen to them (but which they are blank canvases for), nor through the interpretation of the able-bodied people around them who exploit them, the sisters are finally able to navigate their narrative on their own. However, this is quickly dropped when they reach Marco, another cartoonish villain. A singer on a sort of fetish boat (featuring foot worship and adult breast-feeding), everything about Marco screams “sexually predatory danger” — which is exactly what it is. Again brought into the onslaught of excessive distress yet saying nothing about it and never giving the twins any sort of subjectivity, the film’s dip into their own journey becomes Indivisibili‘s exception, not its rule.

To dress up able-bodied people as disabled freaks, as de Angelis has done here, will surely put him on the wrong side of history, to say nothing of the lack of sensitivity he displays towards his characters (involving less respect and agency than seen in Browning’s film — from eighty years ago — which he references). A self-indulgent work, seemingly more about the director’s own conflict over what turns him on than anything else, Indivisibili wastes the Fontana’s natural acting talent for a work of pure fetishism. Poorly shot on top of that, de Angelis’ film has very little to offer.

Chelsea Phillips-Carr is a writer and film critic from Toronto.

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