OK, sure, I admit there is a base fascination with freaks. But conjoined twins, particularly this pair who share one set of legs and arms, raise the curiosity in interesting directions: What does it mean to be an individual? This pair's unusual arrangement means that unlike many conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany can do almost anything that a normal pair of twins might do. Except.... well, except there are two people in one body! Endless questions ensue from this documentary about their suburban life. If each girl controls only one arm and one leg, how can they ride a bike? Hit a baseball? Swim? When they drive a car, how do they decide where to turn? And do they get one licence or two? That particular question is answered on their 16th birthday, as this film follows them to the driving test center, where they pass the driving test (both turning the wheel). Their local DMV decides to issue them each one licence. On school tests, some teachers make each of them take the test -- but they use both of their hands -- and some allow them to take it once. As 16-year-old girls, they are clearly very different personalities, and distinct people sharing one frame. Despite their different tastes in fashions, they have to negotiate and cooperate on what to wear in the morning, what to type when instant messaging (each one controls each hand), what to eat, and when to do --- everything! The issues of identity and boundaries of self are wobbly. When IM'ing the girls say "I" instead of "we". But what happens when they date? Or, even more mind boggling, marry? Most of these philosophical and medical questions are left unasked. Their family is intent on not letting them become medical subjects or media celebrities, so they have spent their lives in a very small town in Minnesota, going to high school and trying to be as normal as one could be -- if you have two heads. This film won't scratch all the itches provoked by this extreme form of embodiment. The filmmakers have been given exclusive access to the pair, but it is obvious they are not pressing hard; they specialize in medical subjects. The girls, their families, and the film aim to convey how "normal" they are. And yes, it is amazing how humans will adapt to almost anything. But if you want extraordinary normal, if you want hyperreal challenges to the self, if you want a prime example of transhumanism in action, get this film.
Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16
Advance Medical Productions
2006, 50 min.
Available from Figure 8 Films