This slick, good-looking film has two or three more twists in store than might be expected, and rushes headlong into its story – seemingly picking up in the middle – so that audiences who might see through some of the deceptions will still be fooled by others.
Successful artist Freddy Jelik (Felix Schäfer) has suffered personal and professional setbacks – after discovering that his wife Sandra (Anna Unterberger) is having an affair with an annoying new agey guy who calls himself Krishna (Robert Stadlober) he pointedly addresses as ‘Christian’, he has been convicted of assaulting her and has greatly reduced access to his son Simon (Neriah Krase). The bad publicity means that a gallery is no longer keen on showing his work and he has to move into a new house. Freddy has had to plead guilty to the assault and take court-ordered psychotherapy to avoid prison, but maintains that the beating was actually carried out by his hitherto-unknown twin brother Eddy, who turns up Fight Club style in his life to give him helpful advice on how not to be a wimp that always seems to rebound and make him look worse than he is. He tentatively begins a friendship with a new neighbour, Paula (Jessica Schwarz), and her daughter Mizi (Greta Bohacek), but worries that his alter ego will take over and he’ll be a threat to them. Of course, his half-brother David (Alexander Finkenwirth) insists he never had a twin … but their mother is nearly-comatose and can’t confirm or deny.
With Jekyll and (Edward) Hyde embedded in the character names and the imaginary friend sub-genre well-established, the film seems to be a study of a split personality … and even Freddy is more afraid of himself than his alter ego, but evidence starts to pile up that there might really be an Eddy, even if no one can tell the difference between the pair, and director Tini Tüllman flirts with reveals by having the two characters share a frame and seem to interact independently with others, especially in an unsettling day-out-on-a-mountain trip which includes a deadly careen on a runaway toboggan. The film seesaws on the question of how real Eddy is, and crucially leaves out some scenes – a very Stevensonian technique – in which he manifests most strongly, to intimidate the gallery owner who has rejected Freddy’s work or to show his more aggressive (but also sexier) side to the fourteen-year-old Mizi, whom he woos with guitar playing.
This could easily have been done as one of those ‘romantic suspense’ TV movies found on Channel 5 every afternoon, with twists telegraphed and a neat bow on the story … but Tüllman, abetted by sterling work from Schäfer (and the sort of photographic trickery which was a revelation in Dead Ringers or Multiplicity but now tends to be taken for granted), goes for a more Roegian cut-up style, conveying the protagonist’s fractured psyche but also the way his seemingly ideal life has spiralled out of his control and the threats posed to those innocently involved in his private psycho-drama (all the supporting characters are more than just tokens, and even the caricature Krishna is vividly awful). The home stretch includes a few conventional turns – the character sacrificed to up the body count just after crucial plot information has been disclosed to him, flashbacks to the initial trauma that broke the ‘twins’ apart, a 1970s-style last-moment sting – but it’s still a gripping, good-looking, nicely uneasy drama about the cracks in a perfect family photograph.