By William Wolf


Directed by Sergio Castellitto, “Twice Born” is more like twice bored. Penélope Cruz is just about the only interesting element in this sprawling story that mixes romance and war. The screenplay by Margaret Mazzantini that she wrote with Castellitto flips back and forth in time and although only a bit more than two hours, the film seems to go on forever.

Cruz is cast as Gemma, who has a teenage son and travels to Sarajevo for an exhibition of photographs taken by a lover from the past. Gemma’s life is traced through flashbacks. Having been caught up in the war in Bosnia, she is shown against the horrors of that war, some of which are especially painful to watch. The screenplay is complex, but the story is not very compelling despite the efforts to pile on the drama.

Cruz is always fascinating as a vibrant, attractive actress. But she cannot trump the strained efforts to create this turbulent story. Emil Hirsch plays Diego, the American photographer with whom he was passionately in love.

One gets the impression of filmmakers wanting to say something about warfare but feeling compelled to build it around romance. In this case the result is the weakening of both elements.


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