In "My Twentieth Century," the fascinating premise focuses on Lili and Dora (both played by the enchanting Dorotha Segda), identical twin sisters born in Hungary in 1880 - just as Edison is demonstrating his electric light on this continent.
The sisters are separated as young children and remain unknown to each other as they take different life adventures. But their paths later cross in surprising ways.The first occurs at the turn of the century, when they are 20, as they board the same train, unaware of each other's presence. Lili is an anarchist smuggling secret messages in a cage with carrier pigeons as she sits in a car filled with peasants and animals. Meanwhile, Dora is a high-rolling con artist and seductress, prowling the dining car.
Later, earthy Dora will continue to ply her trade while idealistic Lili will be planting bombs around the city of Budapest when both will find themselves romanced by the same man, identified only as "Z" in the credits (Oleg Jankowski). He, of course, doesn't realize they are different women, and neither woman realizes he has been with the other sister.
First-time Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi (she won the Cannes Film Festival Camera d'Or award for this film last year) takes this compelling series of events and builds them slowly and enigmatically. There are moments of great wit and visual richness (the film is shot in gorgeous black and white). But to call the film idiosyncratic is to understate.
How you take to "My Twentieth Century" will have a lot to do with your own tolerance for obscure symbolism and bizarre technique. Enyedi's digressions are occasionally maddening, including a strange lecture from a male chauvinist on female "inferiority" that goes on so long it threatens to obscure its real meaning.
Still, there are many wonderful moments and fans of artistic foreign-language film will enjoy this one.
"My Twentieth Century" is not rated but would certainly get an R for two sequences with nudity, including one that is a very graphic sex scene.