Sergio Castellitto’s Twice Born irresponsibly appropriates the horrific siege of Sarajevo to serve as aesthetic backdrop for a story that exhibits no real interest in the conflict.
A romantic drama that, with a helping of non sequitur, mutates into a paternity mystery in the final act, Twice Born revolves around two storylines: In one, young Gemma (Penélope Cruz) and Diego (Emile Hirsch) fall in love in Sarajevo, and have trouble conceiving a child; in the second, Gemma returns to Sarajevo with her son, Pietro (Pietro Castellitto), for the first time since the siege.
Cruz and Hirsch manage to create chemistry at points, working hard against affected dialogue. Yet Twice Born‘s central plot — Gemma and Diego’s attempts to have a child — seems markedly small against the backdrop of the Bosnian War.
Unfortunately, without any insight into or significant narrative consideration paid to the siege, the war’s horror only serves as an excuse for overwrought music, tracking shots through rubble, and sensational slow-motion sequences.
It might go too far to accuse Castellitto of exploiting a tragedy, since he does grasp that suffering occurred, but his perspective feels wildly out of touch: When one young man is killed by a sniper, a friend eulogizes him by saying that “when he was shot, he fell like an artist.” A more inconceivable statement is difficult to imagine.