The concept of identical twins has always been a fascinating one. Is there a dominant twin? Can they communicate telepathically? Are they two sides of the same person?
The theme was explored by David Cronenberg in “Dead Ringers” in 1988, in which Jeremy Irons played twin brothers who impersonated each other in order to share their women. Joyce Carol Oates (writing under the pseudonym of Rosamond Smith) explores a similar idea in her novel “Lives of Twins”, on which Francois Ozon has loosely based this film. But just as he did with “Franz” earlier this year, which was also based on an existing work, Ozon has put his own original spin on the tale.
Chloe (Marine Vacth) is a somewhat disturbed young woman, who suffers from mysterious stomach pains, which may be psychosomatic and connected to her disturbed childhood. We first see her in the enigmatic opening shot having her long hair cut short. Her doctor advises her to see a psychiatrist Paul (Jérémie Renier), but Paul terminates her treatment when they fall in love with each other.
They move in together and at first are very happy. But then one day she sees him talking to another woman – or so she thinks. When she investigates however, she discovers the man is Paul’s identical twin brother Louis – a fact Paul has hidden from her. Louis is also a psychiatrist. Chloe poses as a new patient and soon enters into a sado-masochistic affair with Louis, who is a very different personality from the gentle Paul – bullying and manipulative. But, as the film indicates at times, is Louis a figment of her imagination, a sexual fantasy? Or if he is real, is he the so called dominant twin? Alternatively, he could perhaps the other, unseen side of Paul’s personality?
Ozon explores his theme intriguingly and with a frank eroticism that makes “Fifty Shades of Grey”, to which the film has been favourably compared, look like a beginner’s handbook. In other words, it is very explicit, indeed at times gynaecological in its depiction of sex, to a degree which is at least eyebrow raising and some may find shocking. He also though treats his story with a teasing sense of fun and campery and a visual shooting style of split screen and mirrors, which echoes the film’s doppelganger theme.
Vacth is an appealingly enigmatic heroine, Renier handles his duel contrasting roles well and there is an all too brief but effective appearance from Jacqueline Bisset as a mother figure from Paul’s past – or maybe from Chloe’s?
I should also mention Chloe’s cat – and indeed Louis’s cat too – whose fates for a while hang in the air. And Chloe’s nosy next door neighbour Rose (Myriam Boyer), who may or may not be part of the unfolding mystery.
All in all an intriguing and frequently erotic movie experience.