Daisy and Viola are conjoined twins on the brink of their eighteenth birthday. They grow up in a Naples filled with colour and music despite its conspicuous pockets of poverty. At their father’s behest and under his management, they become singers themselves. Their financial gain is disproportionately built, however, not on their talent, but on their appearances at milestone religious celebrations — communions, weddings, offertories and processions — where they are carted around as living saints for all to touch in the hopes of being blessed with good health and prosperity. A happenstance meeting with a doctor makes them aware of their physical ‘divisibility,’ the idea of which, however, divides them emotionally and breaks up their fragile family unit. It is at this point that Daisy and Viola embark on a journey that will change their lives and their relationship irrevocably.
Edoardo de Angelis tells their heart-wrenching story in his 2016 film, Indivisibili. The film is carried largely by twin actresses Angela and Marianna Fontana, who bring his gritty, vital screenplay to life with all of the teenage angst and adolescent frustration of their characters in a Neapolitan dialect not always easy to understand (to non-native speakers of it). Antonia Truppo highlights their interpretations of Daisy and Viola with an award-winning performance (David di Donatello, Migliore attrice non-protagonista) of her own as their mother: a seemingly disinterested woman who struggles to escape from the substance abuse that leaves her submissive and often powerless to her overbearing husband. It is through Truppo’s character, Titti, that De Angelis provocatively tackles difficult questions surrounding motherhood, wifehood, parenthood, and social responsibility: what does it mean to be a “dutiful” wife in the religious Italian south? To what degree are mothers to blame for their children’s misfortunes or shortcomings as this unforgiving background often suggests they are? What is to be done in the face of “Hollywood parenting” and the blatant exploitation of minors and mismanagement of their earnings?
Beyond these, De Angelis takes on themes all-too familiar to watchers of Neapolitan-based drama: the widespread poverty of the south and, by contrast, the over-the-top lavish lifestyles of the excessively wealthy few; the integration of migrant populations by assimilation; the presence of a hypocritical Church and its role as a community leader focused too much on material gain to be in-step with its own humble teachings. Yet he also explores themes both timeless and timely: the delicate and explosive nature of a teenage rebellion, the inevitability of sibling conflict, individuality even between people with identical upbringings who share a space of their bodies and are — literally — attached at the hip. His ability to navigate these waters makes of Indivisibili more than your run-of-the-mill “Naples story” told many times over.
His consistent recall of music as the beating heart of Daisy and Viola’s story features the neo-melodico napoletano (a musical genre particular and native to Naples and characterized by popular themes and vocal embellishments) as its own distinct character in his film. Daisy and Viola’s tale is not only marked by their own difficult relationship with music — source of both solace and suffering to them — but also punctuated by a soundtrack that blends the best of the Neapolitan tradition with world-music influences that afford an authentic look at Neapolitan society today, evolving with the changes that immigration and ethnic accommodation bring. Music lovers will find it difficult to walk away from De Angelis’s film without a strong opinion on it.
Unforgettable, too, is the colpo di scena revealed just before the film’s final moments and that leaves even the most indifferent viewers profoundly troubled. A generous filmmaker, however, De Angelis sees it fit to give his audience an opportunity to recover from this blow before the closing credits roll.
Indivisibili is De Angelis’s third full-length feature film and is followed by Il vizio della speranza (2018).