Friday, June 4, 2021

Florian Gottschick | Zwillinge (Twins)

love at first sight

by Douglas Messerli

Florian Gottschick and Denise Langenhan (screenplay), Florian Gottschick (director) Zwillinge (Twins) / 2010

Gay men—I honestly have no idea whether or not it is true of lesbians as well—have long been fascinated by the sexual allure of the identical twin. One might immediately jump to the conclusion that this attraction has something to do with the Narcissus complex that underlies so much of gay mythology; for many decades psychiatrists attributed homosexuality as being a manifestation of a severe condition of narcissism which explained the attraction to the same sex. I think, given the crippling self-hatred experienced by so many gay men throughout history, however, that we can quickly dismiss that notion.

      Perhaps it is just the possibility of finding someone of the same sex who shares so very many things in common without having to go through the difficult process of finding a compatible other in a world in which, given the LGBTQ minority, there is so much less possibility of selection that attracts us to the twin: someone who knows and loves you completely from birth makes everything else so easy. And if you like your own appearance, that makes it even better. It is certainly the most succinct example of the metaphor of falling in love with someone “at first sight.”

     And then, identical twins are themselves born outsiders, a minority that seems queer to the normative world simply because of the deep bond and interconnected thinking of brothers unavailable to others. As I’ve often written, the idea of doubles and doubling have long been intertwined with gay consciousness. 

      And finally, since a 1980 study of twins and homosexuality—as I have noted elsewhere in these pages—found that 65.8% of monozygotic twins (identical twins) were diagnosed as having a homosexual orientation, while only 30.4% of dizygotic twins showed that orientation, there is not only evidence “supporting the argument for a biological basis in sexual orientation,” but some statistics arguing that identical twins “have a shared genetic predisposal to same-sex sexual behavior.” In short, identical twins not only seem to prove that homosexual behavior is genetic but that monozygotic twins themselves are prone to same-sex desires. 

      Certainly gay porn, with its many famous twin sexual performers, might seem to argue for their gay appeal: from the early Bruce Weber shoot of the Carlson twins (who later claimed not be sexually active with one another), and the numerous porn films featuring the Peters, Mendez, Goffney, Fischer, Studding, King, Aston, Boston, Stax, Mercury, Odyssey, Rosso, and Otov twins, as well as the Visconti triplets, twins are a staple of the gay-porn diet.

      Several films have approached this topic, but in 2010 German director Florian Gottschick rather straightforwardly took on the subject in his Zwillinge (Twins), not to be confused with Ivan Reitman’s 1988 comedy of the same title which improbably paired Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, about to be, so I read only today, revisited in a sequel.

       Gottschick’s film concerns two brothers Daniel and Jan (Stefan and Tobias Schönenberg) who meet up again after a year and a half self-willed hiatus, at the bachelor party for Daniel who the next day plans to marry Sofie (Natalie Krane).

      When he answers the doorbell, dressed in a bunny rabbit costume, he is shocked to see his brother, whom he almost hints is not welcome at the event. Nonetheless, he cannot resist inviting him in, and over a night of partying that extends evidently to a local nightclub, he ends up inexplicably handcuffed to a pipe in the women’s bathroom, his brother sitting at his side, who releases him only after a deep kiss.                

     The two men have been justified in the uncertainty of the reunion as they find themselves sharing a bed again. And in the morning, when Sofie enters the kitchen where Jan is now hunkering down over his coffee, she is startled after sharing a kiss and confidences with him to discover he is not Daniel. Apparently, it is she who has invited him to the previous evening’s stag night, and as soon as the two get a moment to know one another, she wastes no time in laying out the territory, openly asking him if he and Daniel are still fucking. She adds that she’s not the jealous type and knows that in marrying Daniel she is marrying both of them.

       Although apparently they have invited no one to witness their private ceremony, she dresses, with only Jan in attendance, in her bridal gown while, soon after, again with his brother at his side, Daniel begins to dress in his blacks and whites, wondering out loud whether he’s made the right decision in agreeing to marry. 

     Jan says it probably is for the best, but as the two lock eyes, Daniel suddenly undresses as they engage suddenly in a quick act of coitus. Daniel redresses—at least we presume it’s Daniel—and heads off to the marriage ceremony, the other sitting on the bed in contemplation of their obviously unresolved sexual relationship with each other

      Surely, Sophie has married both of them, and Jan and Daniel may now not even attempt to live apart.

Los Angeles, June 4, 2021

Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (June 2021).

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