Twin Sisters (2002)

 

 

 

Director:      Ben Sombogaart.

Starring:     Ellen Vogel (Lotte senior), Gudrun Okras (Anna senior), Thekla Reuten (Jonge Lotte), Nadja Uhl (Jonge Anna), Julia Koopmans (Kleine Lotte), Sina Richardt (Kleine Anna), Betty Schuurman (Moeder Rockanje), Jaap Spijkers (Vader Rockanje), Roman Knizka (Martin), Margarita Broich (Martha), Ingo Naujoks (Uncle Heinrich Bamberg), Barbara Auer (Charlotte), Jeroen Spitzenberger (David), Hans Somers (Bram), Hans Trentelman (Meneer De Vries), Marieke van Leeuwen (Mevrouw De Vries), Katrin Pollitt (Frau Stolz), Jean-Paul Maes (Herr Stolz), Markus von Lingen (Bernd), Germain Wagner (Pastoor Jacobsmeyer), Marco Lorenzini (Vader Grosalie), Jan Horsburgh (Moeder Grosalie), Pia Röver (Hannele), Monique Reuter (Liesl).

twin sisters are separated early, one going to Holland and the other staying in Germany;  WWII and Hitler come between the sisters who become estranged from each other

 

Spoiler Warning: 

Cologne, Germany, 1925.  Lotte and Anna are twin sisters. 

!926.  Relatives are squabbling about who should be given the twin sisters.  One part of the family is rich and the other part is not wealthy.  The families attend the funeral ceremony of the twins' parents.  The relatives are still bargaining over the girls. 

Anna is grabbed by one family and Lotte is grabbed by another.  The girls start screaming to be reunited. 

Anna stays in Germany on a pig farm.  Lotte has consumption but goes to the wealthy family in the Netherlands.  Anna is immediately put to work feeding the pigs.  Lotte's new mother, Jetje, is good to Lotte, while Anna's mother is not a good mother. 

Neither family wants to reunite the girls.  Both Lotte and Anna write each other letters, but none of the parents mailed the letters.   Anna's mother is mean saying that her twin sister Lotte wants nothing to do with her.  In fact, Lotte thinks Anna is stupid and dirty.  Then mother adds that Lotte is dead. Anna gets very mad and starts to run away.  Lotte awakens from a dream of her sister and screams out Anna's name again and again.  Jetje tells Lotte that Anna is living with the barbarians, really stupid people who have no stationery.  She adds that Anna loves the animals and loves the farm and Anna doesn't want Lotte to be sad and crying. 

Anna's village priest asks her mother why doesn't he see Anna in the school?  The mothers says Anna has a hard time with learning.  The priest says that it seems to him that Anna is rather clever.  Anna comes over to the adults, grabs the priest's book and starts reading from the book.  She obviously has no problem with reading.  She then tells the priest that she wants to go to school, but mother grabs Anna's hand and pulls her into the house.  There mother gives Anna a hard slap. 

In the future.  At a spa, two older women, Anna and Lotte, relax on lounge chairs.  Anna knows Lotte, but Lotte doesn't know Anna.  Anna asks Lotte what's wrong with her?  Is she having problems with arthritis?  Lotte say yes.  Anna says she too has troubles with arthritis.  In fact, arthritis runs in her family.  She asks Lotte if arthritis runs in her family?  Lotte says no.  Anna says three times to Lotte that arthritis does run in her family.  Lotte doesn't respond.  So Anna gets up and tells Lotte that arthritis certainly does run in her family.   Lotte doesn't know what to say to this other woman.  So, Anna says outloud Lotte's name.  Lotte is shocked and says the name Anna to the other woman.  Yes, the other woman says her name is Anna.  Probably remembering what her mother said to Lotte, that Anna wanted nothing to do with Lotte, Lotte gets out of the chair and walks away.  This hurts Anna.

1936.  Anna still works with the pigs and gets her clothes messed up.  Meanwhile, Lotte is playing the piano for her mother's friends.  Lotte has been on the radio twice with her piano playing and singing.  A young man who seems to like Lotte sits down beside her at the piano and starts playing some Schumann.  Meanwhile, a young man talks with Anna and wonders which farmer she will marry.  Anna says she will never marry a farmer.

Anna reads the newspaper about Hitler.  She says that the man looks like he wants to fight.  The young blacksmith thinks the world of Hitler.  In the Netherlands, Hitler is not admired.  They are more aware of Hitler's anti-Semitism.

Anna too thinks that everything will improve under Hitler.  Anna's father doesn't like Hitler and says the followers of the man are just a bunch of idiots and a bunch of sheep too.  And now Anna is falling for this as well!  Dad/Uncle tells Anna that she is to stay away from the worthless blacksmith she likes. 

Lotte goes out sailing with the young man who plays Schumann on the piano. 

Anna sees her blacksmith now in a uniform. She is confused and walks away from her blacksmith.  A neighbor sees them together and comes to Anna's farm to tell her mother and father.  The neighbor says she saw Anna kiss the blacksmith.  Her father comes into the barn and starts beating Anna and kicking her.  Lotte swimming in the lake gets a funny feeling in her that Anna is in danger somewhere.  Lotte tells her boyfriend David about her twin sister, their separation and Lotte's feeling that there is something harming Anna.  She says she has written to her sister so many times but has never gotten a letter from Anna. 

The priest finds Anna in the barn.  He tells Anna that he is going to take her away from this terrible farm.  He puts her in St. Joseph's Domestic Science School. 

1939.  Anna is released from the school.  She becomes a servant in a household.   While looking for some Schumann music, Lotte finds a little box that contains her letters to Anna.  She is very mad at her parents for never sending her letters to her sister Anna.  She confronts her parents and then wants to know where are Anna's letter to  her.  They tell her that there are no letters from Anna.  Lotte says that she's going to find her sister. 

German officials come to the home of Anna's employers.  They want to know where Anna Bamberg is.  Anna herself plays the part of her mistress.  The official tell her that Anna was a retarded girl and she is now slated for sterilization.  They show Anna their file on her.  Anna looks at it and then tells the officials that she is Anna Bamberg.  She tells them about her wicked aunt and uncle and emphasized that her so-called parents just wanted to work her like a slave, so they made up a story of Anna Bamberg being retarded. And now the officials want to sterilize her?  She screams at the men to get out of the house.  The officials leave. 

Anna leaves her employers.  As she leaves, the mistress of the house hands Anna a letter from her sister Lotte.  Lotte explains what happened to her letters and says she is looking forward to being reunited with Anna. 

Anna writes Lotte a letter.  She says that their foster parents both lied to them.  Lotte says she is tutoring in German and has nearly enough money for the trip.  Anna writes to Lotte that she has a new position, near Cologne, with a countess.   The place is a villa with a swimming pool.

Lotte say goodbye to her family.  She's on her way to see Anna.  Before she leaves, David gives Lotte an engagement ring.

The twin sisters meet at the train station. Hitler's portrait is everywhere, and there are a lot of guards around with their German shepherd dogs.  The twins grab each other.  They travel in the countess's private railroad car. In the limousine Anna has to tell Lotte that she can only stay for one night.  The countess is afraid that the English might start bombing the villa.  The countess has an old castle on the Oder and that's where they're going.  [The Oder River is the east German border with western Poland.]

Lotte asks to be allowed to help Anna with her maid duties.   Anna puts her in a maid's uniform.  They go downstairs and Lotte is shocked to see five German military officers in the house.  Anna explains that the officers are on leave and are guests of the count. 

The countess comes rushing in to ask where's the silverware.  Anna introduces her sister to the countess, but the countess is too busy with her guests and just says "not now". 

Lotte helps Anna serve the soup.  She is shocked when a man starts singing an anti-Semitic song at the table. 

In Anna's room, Lotte presents a gift to Anna.  Anna opens the gift and finds that its a collection of all the letters that Lotte wrote to Anna over the years of separation.  They are interrupted by the drunk German officers shooting goats on the lawn. Lotte says that Anna must come home with her to Holland  Anna says that she can't abandon the countess right now because the woman has been so kind to her.  She says that she will stay two or three weeks at the Oder mansion until the countess has settled in.  Then she will come to Holland. 

Before leaving, Lotte shows a picture of her fiancé to Anna.  Anna looks a little shocked and Lotte asks what's wrong.  Anna says he's handsome, but at first he thought the fiancé was Jewish.  This upsets Lotte, but there is no more time to talk.  The chauffeur is taking Lotte to the train station.  Lotte sits in the back of the car crying on the way to the train station. 

In the future.  Anna sees her sister in the street below the hotel.  She hurries outside to try and catch up with Lotte.  She tries to catch up with her but Anna is not as fast a walker as Lotte.  Lotte goes on a walk in a big park.  Anna starts falling farther back, so she starts shouting out Lotte's name over and over.  Lotte just hurries her step.  By accident they bump into each other, but again Lotte tries to run away.  Anna calls out even louder for Lotte, who finally stops walking away from her sister.  She reminds Lotte that she is her sister and she is alive.  Anna says she even called Lotte's daughter.  Lotte gets indignant:  "Bother my daughter?  How dare you?"  Anna replies:  "All this time you pretended that I didn't exist."  Lotte says that Anna was gone.  Why didn't she stay gone?

Back home, Lotte tells David what Anna said about him  -- that she thought he looked Jewish.  She says she will have no part of the German anti-Semitism.  Lotte writes Anna saying that, since Germany is at war, it's best that she does not come to Holland.   Another maid comes to get Anna and she asks about her sister.  Anna just says she has no sister.

Anna won't dance with any of the German soldiers.  She is too upset about her sister.  Across the room she sees a good-looking soldier.  Soon she is dancing and drinking with the soldier.  But the problem with her sister gets back in her head and she runs off.  The soldier follows her.  Slowly Anna says what's bothering her.  She explains about her twin sister in Holland and how she wanted to go to her, but now her sister tells her no.  She asks why would her sister do this to her:  "She's German herself."  Then it occurs to her that her soldier is from Austria.  He was drafted into the army.  Otherwise, he would be back in Vienna. 

1940.  The countess scolds Anna for letting the Polish forced labor men borrow the mansion's beet press.  She tells Anna that the Poles are subhuman, while the Germans are the master race. Anna says, well, if we are the master race, shouldn't we lend the beet press to them.  The countess smiles and gives in to Anna.  Teasingly she calls Anna:  "Bolshevik."

Anna is thrilled to see her soldier again.  They hug and kiss each other.  He says that they are moving out again.  She asks him where to, but he won't tell her.  He snuck out of the barracks, and now has to get back.  They kiss and hug.  She asks when's he coming back?  He doesn't know when. 

Holland is attacked by the Germans.  Lotte has David take her out sailing any way.  On this day Lotte doesn't want to wait for marriage to have sex with David.  David keeps saying no, so Lotte tries to give engagement his ring back to him.  He won't take the rings so she throws it in the lake.  Then she says she's going sailing.  David says he won't go with her and she can't go because she doesn't now enough about sailing.   Now she asks David why doesn't he break it off with her?  David says why should he.  Finally, Lotte says because she is German and the Germans are invading Holland.  He doesn't see her as the German but as Lotte, who he loves.

1942.  Anna tells the guard that she is here to see Martin Grosalie.  His training is done and he has leave today.  The guard tells her that all leavev has been canceled.  The reason is that the commander didn't thing his men were very enthusiastic when they said the words Sieg heil!  Anna blows up and tells the guard off.  Anna climbs up the wall to try to get a glimpse of Martin.  The men have to keep repeating Sieg heil! 

Lotte tells David that she wants to become a Jew.  David says no, because of all the fuss it would lead to.  They are going to the movies, but Lotte left her purse in the restaurant.  David goes to get it, but then he is very delayed in coming back.  Then she notices that lots of people are worried and running away from the downtown area.  Lotte goes to the restaurant and retrieves her purse.

Lotte's family gets news from David's family that David was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp.  And all this because Lotte left her handbag in the restaurant.  Lotte writes a note to Anna.  She writes that she's scared and asks for Anna's help. 

Anna tells the countess that she is getting married to her soldier.  So, she will be going to Vienna, Austria.  He wrote:  "Got tired.  Russia too big.  Eight days too late for Stalingrad."  Lotte's letter arrives after Anna leaves for Vienna. 

Lotte's family takes in David's family.  A letter comes from David.  In a round-about way, he is asking for his family's help.  David is now going to Auschwitz.

Anna married Martin.  Then Martin has to return to Russia.  He tells Anna not to worry about him because he's in the signal unit and that unit is not in any danger. 

1944.  The Jewish family is still with Lotte's family.  Anna gets to see Martin again.  Anna says they say that the war is almost over.  Martin says the Russians are at West Prussia.  Anna tells Martin that what she wants is a baby. 

David's father learns that the Germans are using gas on the Jews. 

1945.  Air-raid siren sounds.  She rushes to her home.  There is a letter for her.  The letter says: "It is my duty as company commander to inform you of your husband's heroic death."  Dad says in the Eifel by shellfire. 

In the future.  Anna repeats: "Your husband's heroic death."  Her sisters says:  "At least you had a grave.  There was no cemetery in Auschwitz."

Anna throws Martin's clothes in a river.  Holland is being liberated and David's brother asks Lotte to come with him to see the Canadians.  She asks the brother if he thinks David will still want her?  He says that he doesn't think David's coming back. And he thinks that Lotte thinks that too.  For that, Lotte slaps the brother's face. 

1947.  Lotte has a baby girl by David's brother.  The red cross sends an official notice that David was killed at Auschwitz. 

Anna comes to visit Lotte, but Lotte doesn't want to see her.  While Lotte's husband tries to get his wife to say something to Anna, Anna picks up the baby and holds it.  Lotte takes her baby from Anna, but she won't talk to her.  Later, Lotte goes through Anna's suitcase and finds Anna's picture with her husband.  Lotte becomes so infuriated that she grabs the suitcase, gives it to Anna and tells Anna to get out, Nazi.  She then says Anna is not her sister anymore. 

In the future.  Anna says she hardly knew what was happening in Holland.  Lotte is still filled with lots of righteous indignation.  She says if she forgave her sister, it would be a betrayal of David.  Anna says:  "You don't have to forgive me.  I'm not asking for forgiveness.  I haven't done anything wrong."  Anna says Lotte is treating her as a monster.   Lotte now walks away from Anna.  She walks down the trail for while, but then turns around to help her sister get out of the park.  They are out so late that they have to stay the night.  They put lots of leaves around themselves.  Anna explains that she couldn't have any children because of Uncle Heinrich's beatings.  But she did work with children all her employed life. 

In the morning Lotte wakes up.  She checks on her sister and finds her dead.

Later a medical team comes out to check on the two elderly women.  The medical woman asks Lotte who is this woman?  Lotte answers:  "Anna.  My sister.  My twin sister."  Lotte pets Anna's head. 
 

 

In war there are war crimes committed.  The question is, is everyone from the offending country guilty of war crimes?   Lotte lost he Jewish man that she loved who was from Holland.  Lotte blamed her sister for what Hitler and his cronies did.  I have known Jewish people that say they would never visit Germany, because of their their terrible crimes against humanity.  In blaming everyone as equally guilty, one is being prejudiced against a whole nation and every person in that country.  There were non-Jewish Germans who gave their lives in the fight against Hitler.  How can these people and their families be compared to the madman and butcher Hitler?  Lotte did an injustice to her sister by judging her sister as equal to Hitler.  Lotte lived in Holland while her twin sister Anna lived in Germany.  Anna was brought up believing that the Jewish people were monsters and racial inferiors.  But Anna would never have created the genocide machine that Hitler created.  She would have accepted Lotte's David with a little bit of good advice.  Anna loved her sister so much that she would have accepted David, but Anna didn't even know about David, nor did she know about the systematic extermination of Jewish people as well as other groups.  We can't be too hard on Lotte either, because it's so painful to lose someone you really love.  Lotte needed some advice too.  Too late, she learned that lesson from her twin sister Anna.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

 

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