Edinburgh International Film Festival

Brothers of the Head (2005)

Starring: Harry Treadaway, Luke Treadaway, Bryan Dick, Sean Harris, Jonathan Pryce, Jane Horrocks, Ken Russell

Directed by: Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe

Rating: 1 2 3 4

The Howe twins learn their trade as rock stars

So it's 1974, right, and there's this impresario, and he has this idea that it would be, like, really cool if he got two conjoined twins and turned them into rock stars. So once he's found them, running wild in the Fens (where else?), he holes them up in a big mansion with a backing band and a somewhat sadistic manager until they've learned to play guitar and sing, before unleashing them on the London pub rock circuit. And because this is a legend in the making, the whole thing is captured on film by a prurient documentary maker. And then turned into a feature film by Ken Russell. And then, after the demise of the twins (because obviously they're dead now, being 1970s rock stars), a new rockumentary is made, charting their rise and fall, featuring footage from the original documentary, the Russell film and interviews with the survivors. And this is it.

Brothers of the Head - conjoined twins Tom and Barry take to the stage

And if you believe that, you'll believe anything, because Brothers of the Head is, of course, completely fabricated. And yet this enthralling mocku-rockumentary takes this absurd premise and turns it into something utterly compelling and convincing. As hedonistic and evocative as Velvet Goldmine, as dirty and desperate as Sid and Nancy and as brilliantly, subtly observed as This is Spïnal Täp, the film charts with uncomfortable, uncompromising honesty the extraordinary career of the two 'Siamese' brothers, Tom and Barry Howe (Harry and Luke Treadaway).

But sex, drugs and rock'n'roll aside, the most fascinating aspect of the film is the no holds barred portrayal of the unfathomable love/hate relationship between the two brothers - two very different individuals, bound together by biology - and a mysterious third brother, at times referred to as a secret childhood friend, a growth or tumour at the back of Barry's brain, a metaphor for their unexpected musical genius and even a malformed, foetus-like third head.

This last, of course, can only be a part of the fake Ken Russell film, Two-Way Romeo, which acts as a glossy conduit for the more fantastical, gothic elements of the film (and stars Jonathan Pryce and Jane Horrocks, the only recognisable actors in the film). Poor old Ken Russell - bet he's kicking himself for not coming up with the idea himself.

Brothers of the Head - the twins live on stage

Thanks to an astounding and utterly credible performance from twins Luke and Harry Treadaway, you never once find yourself questioning the idea that conjoined twins could become rising stars on the emergent punk rock scene of the mid '70s. With their music (written by musician and producer Clive Langer) providing, in the words of directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe 'the missing link between the British glam rockers, the American Iggy/New York Dolls sound and the Sex Pistols', the ultimate exploited outsiders, exploiting their own exclusion.

Throw in some fantastic sets and costumes, great naturalistic acting from the supporting cast, amazing cinematography which defines to perfection the film's different sources and all in all you have a real tour de force of a movie that pays fitting tribute to the freak show which is rock'n'roll. Yes, it's daring and different, and certainly not to everyone's taste. But, like the music of the twins' band, The Bang Bang, it's raw, energetic, exciting and like nothing you've ever seen before.

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