Brothers of the Head

Starring: Harry Treadaway, Luke Treadaway, Bryan Dick, Sean Harris and Jonathan Pryce
Tartan Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 22 January 2007

Brother Harry and Tom Treadway are co-joined twins who are effectively pimped out, by their father, to a music producer looking for a new angle for a band. What originally looks to be an offer from heaven soon turns out to be a Faustian decent into hell...

Brothers of the Head (2005) was directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe who had previously collaborated on documentaries about the making of the ill fated Gilliam film about Don Quixote (2002) film as well as the Three Kings (2000) and Twelve Monkeys (1997). The film won prizes at both the Boston Independent Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival and was nominated for a further two. The film is based on a 1977 illustrated novel by Brian Aldiss, who appears in the film as himself.

Apart from Aldiss the film also has Ken Russell, popping up to give his opinions on the central characters, and performances from Jonathan Pryce and Jane Horrocks. The film pivots on the performance of real life brothers Tom and Barry Howe, playing the co-joined twins Harry and Luke Treadway, who are able to bring a great deal of realism to their characters.

Brothers of the Head is more of a docudrama, rather than a mockumentary, as it is devoid of anything approaching humour. It lacks both the p*ss-take whit of 24 Hour Party People (2002), or the surreal humour of This is Spinal Tap (1984). The characters portrayed are universally vacuous and unsympathetic, exploitative of each other at almost every turn; these are not generally people that you would want to know. This is not an unusual portrayal in this genre. Films about bands, real or otherwise, usually concentrate on the more salacious aspects of the industry, to the point that the characters and situations are easily recognised for the archetypes that they have become.

So rock bands take drugs, fornicate and drink, that's hardly revolutionary news. Neither is the fact that truth is often the first casualty of the inevitable crash and burn. The film treads an old path that was better explored in Performance (1970) and Stardust (1974). The juxtaposition of music and disability was better explored in a more innovative way in The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005) which leaves Brothers as an interesting but otherwise flawed piece.

At its core, this faux documentary has a fundamental problem with its focus. Are we supposed to be looking at a film about the workings of a band, or are we supposed to be watching the tragic story of co-joined twins? Neither side of the film really works well. The band story is old hat and, let's be honest, though the twins appear to be living the decadent lifestyle of dissolute stars their music is frankly not great. As someone who grew up in that era, they would have been lucky to have been considered wannabes with that material.

Apart from the original theatrical trailer, the disc comes with over an hour of deleted material, sixteen scenes in all, which gives credence to the contention that the film had a fundamental lack of focus throughout the shoot.

As you would imagine, in order to get the fake documentary style that they were after, the film is shot in a variety of less than slick ways. Audio options are stereo, 5.1 and DTS - all with subtitles, though the soundscape is never impressive enough to make full use of 5.1.

This is the type of film that you are either going to view as a brilliantly dark gothic trip towards tragedy or a less than successful crashing together of ideas. Personally speaking, apart from the rather freak show aspect of the twins fundamental problem, this piece would be decidedly average.

Charles Packer

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