The True Story Behind ‘The Silent Twins’


Two parrots, Polly and Perkins, are on show, locked away inside a gilded cage. A hoop of spectators surrounds them, as if in a zoo, peering towards the birds in fascination. However the birds, distressed, have plucked out all of their feathers, leaving them bare and sallow.

This scene, fastidiously depicted with doll-like puppets, is one in all a string of fascinating stop-motion animation sequences in The Silent Twins, out Sept. 16. The biographical drama from director Agnieszka Smoczyńska tells the story of June and Jennifer Gibbons (performed by Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance, respectively), who regularly stopped chatting with anybody apart from one another—and even then solely in non-public.

Leah Mondesir Simmons as younger June Gibbons and Eva-Arianna Baxter as younger Jennifer Gibbons in ‘The Silent Twins’

Jakub Kijowski—Focus Options

Later, in one other imaginary scene, the titular twins sit smiling facet by facet at a e book signing, every autographing copies of their respective novels, flourishing their pens with gusto. Behind them, two life-size parrot puppets sway contentedly—this time restored to a wholesome purple hue. In actual life, each twins have been writers, and Polly and Perkins first appeared in one in all Jennifer’s early tales.

Barbara Rupik spearheaded the stop-motion animation within the movie. “This story is concurrently charming and unsettling,” Rupik says in an electronic mail to TIME, referencing directly the whimsy and sorrow of two parrots introduced as much as stay in a zoo. “Solely via the eyes of creativeness Polly and Perkins are capable of open the cage’s door, a gateway to a fantasy world. It’s, in a way, their personification, an essential allegory.”

Two lives turned towards each other

June and Jennifer have been born in 1963 to Barbadian dad and mom who raised the ladies and their three siblings within the U.Ok.: first in England after which in Wales. In 1971, when the twins have been eight, they began at a brand new faculty in southwest England.

“Eight or 9, we began struggling, and we stopped speaking,” June advised Hilton Als for the New Yorker in 1998, one in all few interviews they gave. “Individuals referred to as us names—we have been the one Black women in class. Horrible names. They pulled our hair.”

In secondary faculty, the ladies and their brother, David, skilled the identical factor: they have been as soon as once more the one Black college students, and the racism and bullying solely intensified. First, they retreated into themselves, then, as they received older, they started to experiment: with alcohol, medicine, boys, and finally a string of petty crimes that escalated into arson. The twins served nearly 12 years at Broadmoor, the notorious maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. Jennifer died in 1993 and June lives a non-public life immediately.

Leah Mondesir Simmons as young June Gibbons and Eva-Arianna Baxter as young Jennifer Gibbons (Jakub Kijowski—Focus Features)

Leah Mondesir Simmons as younger June Gibbons and Eva-Arianna Baxter as younger Jennifer Gibbons

Jakub Kijowski—Focus Options

As their story was shared within the press by investigative journalist Marjorie Wallace, curious onlookers got here to know the twins as anomalies: the one Black college students in predominantly white faculties and, because the film’s title emphasizes, uniquely silent. However as a lot as June and Jennifer Gibbons turned inward, in addition they stood out for what they created past themselves, a facet of their lives The Silent Twins illuminates: they have been naturally gifted artists.

“I used to be completely amazed at how mature they have been, how filled with creativeness, how artistic: deeply, deeply, deeply artistic,” says Smoczyńska, the director, in an interview. “And from this second, I knew that I needed to inform far more about them, as artists who attempt to talk with the skin world.”

An unparalleled physique of artistic work

The one publicly out there work by both of the twins is June’s The Pepsi-Cola Addict—about a teen from Malibu who drinks 300 cans of Pepsi-Cola on daily basis—which is now out there at only a handful of libraries all over the world. However Smoczyńska dove into analysis, beginning with Wallace’s 1986 e book The Silent Twins, for which the creator constructed deep relationships with the Gibbons women.

By Wallace, the director was capable of entry a few of Jennifer’s drawings, letters from the twins to Wallace, diary entries, poetry, quick tales, unpublished novels, and extra. Smoczyńska invited her artistic staff—together with Rupik, songwriter and composer Zuzanna Wronska and Marcin Macuk, and director of images Jakub Kijowski—to check the whole lot they might concerning the twins.

June and Jennifer—and their artwork—grew to become the impetus for the fashion, tone, and style of the film, a psychological drama guided by the twins’ feelings. Every part got here again to them.

Tamara Lawrance as Jennifer Gibbons and Letitia Wright as June Gibbons in 'The Silent Twins' (Lukasz Bak—Focus Features)

Tamara Lawrance as Jennifer Gibbons and Letitia Wright as June Gibbons in ‘The Silent Twins’

Lukasz Bak—Focus Options

“After I considered them as artists, I additionally felt, for me, the essential [moment] was the second of the transposition from their inside world into the skin world, and from the skin world into their inside world,” Smoczyńska says. “Administrators, after they invent one thing, you begin from this world, the place you reside. And you then go farther, farther, farther, farther, farther within the inside world, to the creativeness.”

The director was drawn to the juxtapositions inside the twins’ similarities: To Smoczyńska, they have been concurrently mature and naïve, tender and humorous, withdrawn from the skin world and immersed of their shared inside world. She discovered the bridge between the 2 worlds in stop-motion animation, and the architect of that bridge was Barbara Rupik, the animator.

“I used to be on the lookout for an artist who may resonate with their creativeness and with their sensitivities,” Smoczyńska says. “And I knew that Barbara and her sensitivity, creativity, humorousness, the best way we resonate with the skin world—I knew that she’s the door, the gateway to June and Jennifer’s imaginations.”

Animating Jennifer and June’s imaginations

Rupik gained third place for the Cinéfondation prize on the Cannes Movie Competition in 2019 along with her animated quick The Little Soul. In an interview concerning the movie, she stated that one in all her main targets “was to indicate repulsive matter in a horny, mesmerizing approach”—a sensibility that served her properly in The Silent Twins. (Rupik advised TIME she discovered most of the twins’ works to be “each unsettling and exquisite.”)

Earlier than their literary pursuits, June and Jennifer indulged their imaginations by constructing complete households of dolls, full with successive generations and sophisticated household bushes—a undeniable fact that Rupik cherished.

“I believe that in some sense the ladies’ mind-set, someplace, is near the mind-set in animation—particularly if we contemplate their play with dolls,” Rupik says. “In some unspecified time in the future, the ladies started to deal with the handmade dolls because the characters of their tales, the handcrafted facet of their work merged with the writing.”

Letitia Wright as June Gibbons and Tamara Lawrance as Jennifer Gibbons in 'The Silent Twins' (Lukasz Bak—Focus Features)

Letitia Wright as June Gibbons and Tamara Lawrance as Jennifer Gibbons in ‘The Silent Twins’

Lukasz Bak—Focus Options

The Silent Twins does the identical factor, fusing animation with the twins’ art work. Certainly one of Jennifer’s unpublished novels, The Pugilist—which Smoczyńska counts as her favourite—tells the story of a doctor, Dr. Pallenberg, who transplants the center of the household canine into his son to maintain him alive. To animate the story, Rupik mixed materials, supplies, and ready-made scaled props with natural, liquid matter. “As if these rag dolls have been sweating and shedding tears,” she says, “and blood was flowing via their our bodies”

“After all, the whole lot is by some means filtered via my creativeness,” Rupik continues. “However I did my greatest to create worlds that might be a fusion of creativeness and sensibility—mine and June’s and Jennifer’s.”

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