The late British children’s author Enid Blyton wrote over 600 children books and has been selling more than 600 million copies world-wide. Amongst her many works, she wrote a series of books about a pair of twins and their adventures at the all-girl boarding school ST. CLARES. Originally titled THE TWINS AT ST CLARES (1941), the German version of the O’Sullivan twin books, was called HANNI AND NANNI (HANNI UND NANNI) and first published in the 1960’s. Since then, HANNI AND NANNI have become true classics and in addition to the six original books written by Blyton, the German edition has grown into 20 volumes as well as a 33 part audio book series.
Following the successful Japanese TV animation series about the twins and their adventures, German executive producers Hermann Florin and Emmo Lempert of newly established FEINE FILME plus Nico Hofmann (an accomplished filmmaker in his own right) and his team at UFA Cinema decided that it was time to update the twins for today’s cinema audience.
And so Hanna “Hanni“ Sullivan and Marianne “Nanni“ Sullivan (in the original version the twins were called Patricia “Pat“ O’Sullivan and Isabel O’Sullivan and went to St. Clare’s boarding school) use computers, listen to their i-pods and have cell phones… However, once they arrive at Lindenhof boarding school, all these digital gadgets are no longer needed, because at Lindenhof, true values like honesty and loyalty are far more important than designer clothes and digital paraphernalia.
The producers are to be congratulated for picking a woman to direct this film. As Christine Hartmann recalls, she grew up with Hanni and Nanni and was fascinated by the twins’ adventures at Lindenhof. To her, the twins’ stories were exciting, witty but also profound – as they conveyed true values such as friendship, individuality, honesty as well as joy. Since Hatmann’s directing debut in 2000 with the TV comedy NOT EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND SEX (ES GEHT NICHT IMMER NUR UM SEX, 2000) Hartmann has added a long list of TV productions to her credit. HANNI & NANNI which she also co-wrote together with Kathrina Raschke and Jane Ainscough, is her first work for the cinema.
Hartmann in turn has to be saluted for her casting choices. Katharina Thalbach (amongst many others, Volker Schloendorf’s THE TIN DRUM, 1978) is a joy as the warm and slightly wacky French tutor and music teacher Mademoiselle Bertoux. Susanne von Borsody (Tom Tykwer’s RUN LOLA RUN, 1998)– plays quite the contrary and is slightly scary as the strict and stern Ms. Mägerlein. Hannelore Elsner (Oskar Roehler’s NO PLACE TO GO, 2000) plays the elegant, enigmatic and slightly esoteric school director Ms. Theobald.
The strong cast is completed with Anja Kling (Michael Herbig’s (T)RAUMSCHIFF SURPRISE, 2004) and Heino Ferch (Margarete von Trotta’s VISIONS, 2009) as the twins’ parents – and of course the identical twins Sophia and Jana Münster.
Filled to the brim with a fast moving soundtrack, HANNI & NANNI is a fun film for a young audience – primarily girls and their moms – with the added bonus of an all-star ensemble. And as the film comes to a close, it seems to suggest to stay tuned for the sequel, just like the books…..