Thursday, April 3, 2014

Twice Born DVD Review

Reviewed by Scott Meyers
Academy Award winner Penélope Cruz and Emile Hirsh star in Twice Born an epic family mystery that becomes a moving portrait of love, loyalty and the unbreakable bonds of motherhood in a time of war. Based on the runaway European bestseller by Margaret Mazzantini, Twice Born begins as the Italian professor Gemma (Cruz) heads off on a summer vacation to the battle-scarred city of Sarajevo with her discontented teenaged son Pietro. She longs to show him the country where she fell passionately in love with his father, Diego (Hirsh) - but she is about to discover a long-hidden secret, one that will reveal far more to their knotted past than even her haunted memories can disclose.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)
In this adaptation of a novel by Margaret Mazzantini we find a woman torn between two lives, the dangerous one she left behind and you can tell misses everything about it and her current life that is much more routine and safe. The film opens with are main character, Gemma (played by Penelope Cruz) at home in modern day and just going through the motions of day to day life, and she receives a call from her old friend Gojko (played by Adnan Haskovic) letting her know that Sarajevo is putting together a showcase of photographs based on "The Siege" that occurred and that some of Diego's pictures will be shown. She is torn between if she should go and it is her husband that convinces her to make the trip and even expresses that she should bring their son, Pietro, along because Pietro is from her relationship with Diego.

Once Gemma arrives in Sarajevo she meets up with her old friend, Gojko, and it starts to bring back old memories and we flash back to when Gemma was still in college visiting the region for the first time and meets Diego (played by Emile Hirsch), who is an American photographer. Torn between her long time love and this new person, Gemma and Diego have a night of passion. She soon realizes that this was a mistake and marries her long time love, but soon realizes that she should not be with him and divorces him.

Diego comes back into her life and soon they start a passionate relationship. Gemma divulges that their previous encounter resulted in her becoming pregnant but loses the baby; soon they get pregnant again, however tragedy strikes again and they lose the baby again and they are forced into tough times. After the second miscarriage Gemma and Diego go and see a doctor and find out that Gemma is sterile and it is basically impossible for Gemma to get pregnant and carry the baby to term. So they look to alternate means of having a child, but Diego's shady past makes it difficult for anything to happen. The couple learns to cope without child but still part of them feels incomplete.

With the war in Bosnia increasing, Gemma and Diego decide they need to move somewhere safer, so they move back to Italy and live with Gemma's father. The safer life makes them miserable and all they do is watch the news coverage and think about their life in the war zoned country and end up back in Sarajevo to aid all their friends and neighbors in any way that they can. Here they find out information that changes both their lives forever; and while trying to flee the country (yet again) Gemma ends up separated from everyone. Upon arriving back in Italy, Gemma meets a military man and Gemma is given life-changing news and afraid of being lonely, stays with the military man. While on her current trip to Bosnia, Gemma learns the truth about what happened all those years ago. Gemma's life is forever changed when she learns the whole story and she gains a new perspective on life.

The film at times seemed extremely long and I am sure that they could have cut some scenes out. The storyline of the film was on the depressing side: we have a female in search of love and family who cannot get pregnant all the while trying to find herself and where makes her happy. Nothing seems to make her happy and she always seems to be searching for something, even the reason she goes back to Sarajevo is she is searching for something because she is not happy. At the conclusion of the film, when Gemma is suppose to be happy and have all her questions answered, there still seems to be a lingering question in the back of her mind. The acting in the film was well done, however at times it seemed to be over the top, especially between Cruz and Hirsch when things got heated. But I do not think that took away from the quality of the film as a whole. With a cast made up from not well known actors the movie is worth watching once.
Video (3 out of 5 stars)
The DVD was formatted in 16x9 with a 2.35:1 ratio; this movie was filmed on location in Italy and Bosnia using actors that are from this region of the world which added to the movies realism. The war zone scene of Sarajevo in the 1990's is the main setting of the story and Castellitto is tasked with recreating that feeling and to bring the audience into a very emotional love story. The battle scenes were very intense and left the audience on the edge of their seat wondering what would happen next.
Audio (3 out of 5 stars)
In 5.1 Dolby Digital sound the movie was in English, Bosnian, and Italian. The dialogue was well done, the only issue at times was when the subtitles were being utilized (because the character was not speaking English), they went too fast and you missed some of what the character said. The special effect sounds, such as the explosions, were very realistic and brought the audience more into the movie. One of the only issues that I found was the dialogue was too quiet at times and made it difficult to hear causing me to have to raise the volume to be able to hear what was being said.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)

Interviews with the cast:
  • Penelope Cruz: She discusses her role as Gemma and how she became her character overnight while reading the book and felt that she completely understood the role and who Gemma was. While reading the story she loved the way the story progressed and how the characters transformed, she felt that the story and characters made a complete journey. The choice for the cast and crew were superb and allowed the film to be the best possible film. The fact that they were able to shoot on location in Sarajevo with local actors added that much more for the movie.
  • Adnan Haskovic: During his interview he explains how his character goes through multiple transformation throughout his journey, both physically and spiritually, and loved being able to not only play this character because of that but also the fact that the character was Bosnian (and he is too) made the part that much better. His critique on the book was that it was perfect and the author could not have done anything better and while reading realized the author had great details on the countryside and was honored to play this part. He also discussed that Sergio Castellitto was an exceptional director; he was able to set the mood without saying much, and allowed the actors to make minor changes to their lines if they felt necessary.
  • Saadet Aksoy: She explains that the fact the author had firsthand knowledge of Sarajevo made the story what it was. While reading she would come across something that would make her think and mentally asks a question and enjoyed that by the end of the story the book had answered all the questions.
  • Sergio Castellitto: When reading the book, knew right away that Penelope would be a perfect Gemma. The fact that the story was adapted from a book makes his job that much easier because the author builds the setting and character development. With this story, Sergio feels that the audience can find something to connect with in their personal life.

Summary (3 out 5 stars)
After watching this movie I am really interested in how much they writers had to edit from the novel to turn it into the film. At times the movie seemed to drag, and I feel that somewhere they could have cut some scenes out of the film. The extras were a little minimal and I wish they would have had more there, maybe something about setting the scenes or explaining how some of the special effects were done. The realism of the devastation that was occurring there during the war was very well done and you could tell the director worked hard to bring this story to life. If you are looking for a film that is not quite a mainstream film but has some depth this is worth watching.

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Twice Born - Trailer

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