Magdalena and Maria are two twin sisters who were separated at birth and know nothing of the other’s existence. Maria runs away from the boarding school in which she was brought up and finds work as a cabaret performer in the cafés of Marseilles. Magdalena lives with her adopted parents and works in an art gallery. The two sisters are joined by an invisible bond which draws them towards the same tragic conclusion.
Director Werner Schroeter has acquired a reputation as an experimentalist filmmaker, hailed by some as an underrated genius, reviled by others for being a peddler of self-indulgent kitsch. Deux is arguably Schroeter’s most ambitious, unsettling and repulsive work to date. The director certainly wastes no time in alienating his audience; from the first ten minutes of the film it is clear this is not going to be an easy ride. The narrative cuts haphazardly between seemingly unconnected events, alternating between realism and stylised fantasy dream sequences, periodically shocking the spectator with graphic images of lesbian sex and a woman being slowly disembowelled. Having several actors playing multiple parts only adds to the sense of artifice and utter confusion, which is a pity as there is manifestly a lot of great acting talent on show – not least of which is Isabelle Huppert. The film’s sheer relentless grotesqueness and self-indulgence is so extreme, so unbridled, so stomach-churningly provocative, that it is hard to take any of it seriously.