“INDIVISIBLE” — 2½ stars — Angela Fontana, Marianna Fontana, Massimiliano Rossi, Gianfranco Gallo, Gaetano Bruno, Peppe Servillo; not rated; Broadway
It isn’t often that a new release will remind you of an obscure cult film from the 1930s, but Edoardo De Angelis’ “Indivisible” does exactly that.
Released in 1932, director Tod Browning’s “Freaks” shared the macabre tale of an exploited group of circus sideshow artists who take revenge on their fellow performers. The film’s message was that true ugliness is on the inside, but “Freaks” is mostly remembered for the director’s use of actual sideshow performers in his cast.
“Indivisible” isn't quite so garish, but it follows a similar sentiment, showcasing a pair of conjoined twins who seem to face exploitation wherever they turn.
Viola (Angela Fontana) and Daisy (Marianna Fontana) are literally joined at the hip, and ready to face adulthood now that they’ve turned 18. Under the tutelage of their taskmaster father Peppe (Massimiliano Rossi), the girls have channeled their unique circumstances into a blossoming music career, performing Peppe’s original songs at various local events. But more offers are starting to come through, and since Peppe tends to gamble away all the girls’ earnings, they are tempted to spurn his guidance.
One offer comes from a priest named Salvatore (Gianfranco Gallo), who wants to feature the girls as part of a traveling ministry. Viola and Daisy are already beset by various locals who are convinced that merely touching the conjoined twins will bring them good luck and in some cases actually heal their infirmities. Though they are a little uncomfortable with the role, Salvatore’s offer at least ties into the girls’ sense of religious devotion.
A second offer is equally exploitative, but on the opposite side of the religious spectrum. Marco Ferreri (Gaetano Bruno) is a wealthy entrepreneur who lives on an expensive pleasure boat filled with fetish-obsessed characters, and he thinks the girls will make a perfect addition to his entourage.
The girls’ third option comes from a doctor named Alfonso Fasano (Peppe Servillo), who offers to separate them and give them true independence and a normal life. Though he insists on doing the operation free of charge, the cost of getting the girls to Switzerland to his hospital is prohibitive enough that they decide to manipulate their other offers as a potential path to freedom.
The bulk of “Indivisible” takes place after this decision, which sets the sisters on a difficult and dangerous path that threatens them psychologically as well as physically. Though they are extremely close emotionally — and seem remarkably well adjusted considering their situation — the girls have very different personalities.
Daisy is very ambitious and adventurous, longing to go to Los Angeles and follow in Janis Joplin’s footsteps (it’s unclear whether she has a full understanding of Joplin’s tragic tale). She is much more tempted by Ferreri’s offer than Viola, who almost acts as Daisy’s conscience — religious and otherwise — frequently coming across as the angel on her sister’s shoulder.
If it isn’t already apparent, this is a different sort of movie, and “Indivisible” probably won’t be very accessible for a lot of traditional audiences. Viola and Daisy seem to exist in a world that is bland and immoral, seedy and almost post-apocalyptic. It’s a far cry from the Italy American audiences are used to seeing on the big screen.
That seediness is frequently unsettling, especially during the sequence where the girls show up at Ferreri’s pleasure barge to ask him for money, but what saves “Indivisible” is its compassion for its protagonists, who are ultimately only able to trust each other while surrounded by so many exploitative suitors. Frankly, “Indivisible” is just too weird to recommend to a wide audience, but De Angelis would probably consider his film a failure if that weren’t the case.
“Indivisible” is not rated, but periodically drifts into R-rated territory for infrequent profanity, sexual content, flashes of nudity and some late violence. It is presented in Italian with English subtitles.
“Indivisible” is not rated; running time: 100 minutes.