The opening credits begin, and the titles are intercut with highly polished "old" clips that seem as though they were shot with a "retro" filter on the camera lens. The immediate impression is of a slick-yet-grainy picture, a clearly fictional telling of these two unique individuals. A man walks through small grassy hills until he comes upon a secluded house, and suddenly there is the ominous chuckling of two silhouetted figures as they are barely caught out of the corner of an eye, bounding out of sight.
Then the line between fact and fiction -- or so it would seem -- gets broken, the director's movie clapper board stuck in between the actor and the camera. In an instant, we see interview subjects, and we discover this is actually a documentary. Right? Or rather, it's a documentary about an attempted documentary of thirty years ago about punk rockers who happen to be conjoined twins, and the unfinished film that had been attempted about them.
Co-directors Kieth Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha) are no strangers to blurring the line between "real" and "fake" documentary, and at the very beginning of Brothers of the Head, their technique feels fresh and inspired. Unfortunately, they can't seem to decide between outright mockumentary and a film intended to convince us that all this really happened. We can't even tell if they're trying to make a joke, but either way, it's a one-note repetition of tone that lasts the duration of the film. The result is a faux-documentary that becomes dreadfully boring within half an hour, and then never gets better.
In many regards, they just try too hard. The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle (28 Days Later; Dogville) is so deliberately amateurish and jerky, with incessant quick-zooms and pulls, it's almost nauseating, let alone disingenuous. The earnestness of the actors playing interview subjects -- band manager, musician, doctor, girlfriend -- actually makes it difficult to decipher whether the film is meant to be taken seriously. Is that in and of itself the joke? If so, it's not really all that funny.
The performances are quite competent across the board; it's the story itself that begs the question: what the hell is the point here? Toni Grisoni's screenplay based on the novel by Brian Aldiss assumes that the fact that these two twins (played exceptionally well, given the limitations, by Harry and Luke Treadaway) are conjoined is alone enough information to make them and their story interesting. This assumption is wrong.
Why Brothers of the Head is made as a documentary is a complete mystery. It could have been a far more compelling film as a straightforwardly fictional telling of the story, which would offer far more wriggle room for things like character development, something that is decidedly lacking here. Instead we get a basic Behind the Music telling of the events, by all the people who have survived the twins (not, naturally, by the twins themselves; they exist only in old video footage) with a simple string of events.
Conjoined twins are sold to a record company by their father. Twins get a record deal. One learns to play guitar; one learns to sing -- sort of, as he ends up screaming and thereby turning their group into a punk band. Two-dimensional tensions surface until the twins die of no discernibly compelling causes. Actors play the parts well but some scripts are so dull that not even the best actor can make it seem good.
That's really all you need to know. In that one paragraph, you get as much out of it as I did sitting, painfully, impatiently, through the entire film. Brothers of the Head is a huge exercise in misguided perceptions of good storytelling.