Smoczyńska conquers Cannes. The true story of the silent twins

When they began to persecute, they made a pact of silence and invented their own language. By closing off from the outside world, they awakened the demons that led to the tragedy. The story of the Gibbons twins has already taken place, and its adaptation has already brought Agnieszka Smoczyńska international fame.

  • June and Jennifer Gibbons were identical twins. When their family moved to Wali, they were persecuted for the color of their skin and their accent
  • As a result of the shock, the sisters stopped communicating with the world, and created their own language, which can only be understood by them
  • Over time, they cut themselves off from the family. After minor infractions with the law, they were kept in a high-security psychiatric hospital for 12 years
  • Journalist Marjorie Wallace has earned their trust. Women around 30 years old told her that their agreement wasn’t just about silence
  • Agnieszka Smoczyńska made a film based on Marjorie Wallace’s book “The Silent Twins”, which delighted critics from all over the world after its premiere in Cannes.
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For this dark and horrifying story, Agnieszka Smoczyńska received a standing ovation for six minutes at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is already in the hands of a major American distributor, Focus Features, which, according to many critics, means Smoczyńska’s entry into the Academy Award-winning race. The story in the movie actually happened.

The true story of the Gibbons twins

Sisters John and Jennifer Gibbons were born on April 11, 1963. They had two more sisters – the older Greta and the younger Rosie. Their family was from Barbados, but they moved frequently due to their father’s work in the Royal Air Force where he was a technician. In 1974, they settled in Wales, which at that time was not a forgiving place. The color of the skin and a specific dialect – called a Pagan Creole or Barbadian dialect, which sounds very strong, “hurried” in English – subjected the Gibbons to constant harassment, harassment, and harassment by the city’s white residents. They were the only black family in Haverfordwest and had a big problem integrating into a xenophobic environment. When the twins started going to school, they immediately became a source of harassment. The children abused them so much that before the end of the class, the teachers let them go home faster, so as not to get hurt.

The trauma caused by the harassment of their peers led to the fact that the sisters closed in on themselves, talked less and less, not wanting to be a laughingstock to others, until finally they were permanently silent. They began to communicate with each other in a language they understood only, which for strangers felt something like the chirping of birds. In medicine, this is a well-known phenomenon called cryptorchidism. Sometimes, an exchange of glances was enough for their communication, causing their relatives and teachers to think that they were communicating telepathically. Once they master their own language, they shut themselves off to the rest of the world. The only person they made exceptions to was their little sister Rose.

The teachers wanted to force them to cooperate and decided to divide the sisters into other classes and even schools, which ended in fiasco – the girls began to have mental and physical problems, including mobility problems, because they fell into some kind of euphoria. After an unsuccessful experiment, it was decided to let them get back together.

Years spent in peace

After another shock served by the system, the sisters locked themselves in a room and did not get out of it for several years. They even refused to eat at the common table. They began writing plays for dolls, poems, and short stories, some of which they recorded on tapes and presented as gifts to their younger sister Rose.

Gibbons’ sisters and journalist Marjorie Wallace

Photo: PA Images/Getty Images

Their writing became darker over time. They raised issues of violence, lawbreaking and harassment. They themselves paid for the publication of the short story “A Pepsi-Cola Addict” with unemployment benefits money, because no publishing house wanted to cooperate.

At first, solitude and silence were a game for them to survive in the world of their rejection. However, over time, an unhealthy competition began to form between them, which escalated into an increasingly toxic relationship.

Since 1980, they keep a diary, thanks to which it was easy for specialists, as well as the journalist who wrote their story, to understand their amazing and terrifying story. It turned out that the sisters, although they were inseparable, began to hate each other with extreme hatred. Some specialists analyzing their case said that the source of the hatred was the jealousy of Jennifer, who was born 10 minutes after June, which made her feel inferior to her sister. June indicated in her diary that she feared her sister, that she saw the will to kill in her eyes, and that she knew it was driving her crazy. On the other hand, Jennifer noted that they became mortal enemies.

When they turned eighteen, they held love contests. It is difficult to find any records of the circumstances in which they met the US Navy sailors and whether they had contact with them. The men entertained themselves at their expense, which added to their frustration and alienation from the world.

The darkest time – psychiatric hospitals

As teenagers, they began to experiment with alcohol and stimulants, which in turn deepened their aggression and alienation from the world. Their disputes with the law began in 1981, including vandalism, theft and even arson. After a series of police records, a decision was made not to go to prison, but to a psychiatric hospital.

Broadmoor was a heavily guarded facility with a bad reputation. The sisters spent 12 years there, underwent various psychological experiments and were constantly given medications. As part of the research, they were separated to verify the subject matter of their communications. At certain times, when they parted, the sisters at the same time made exactly the same movements, and what is strange is that when one of them refused to eat, at the same time the other ate everything she could get.

The administration of the drug led to problems concentrating, they could no longer write stories or even journals, so the doctors decided to change the dose, hoping that the writing would have a therapeutic effect on them.

June even wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II asking for pardon. Unfortunately, there are no results.

Friendship with Marjorie Wallace

The silent twins case caught the attention of journalist Marjorie Wallace, who first wrote about them in the local newspaper, but eventually became so close that the two women became friends and agreed to talk. Wallace decided to write a book that she published in 1986 called The Silent Twins. On the basis of it Andrea Siegel wrote the script, and Agnieszka Smoczyńska directed the film.

Marjorie Wallace with twins Jennifer and John Wallace

Marjorie Wallace with twins Jennifer and John Wallace

Photo: PA Images/Contributor/Getty Images

Twins section

John and Jennifer got close enough to Wallace to tell her a secret that was a pact of silence. And it turns out that the agreement also included an oath. The twins promised each other that when one of them dies (they were convinced that it would happen soon), the other would start talking and start a new life, forgetting about the previous one. During their stay in what they said was the worst torture they had ever experienced in their lives, they concluded that the death of one of them was necessary. Jennifer made a decision that she would sacrifice herself. Wallace was to hear at one of the meetings from her that the day of her death was very close.

In 1993, the two sisters were to be transferred to a regular psychiatric hospital at the Caswell Clinic. During the transfer, Jennifer felt ill, fell into her sister’s lap and slept with her eyes open. June informed the nurses of this and they responded immediately. Despite attempts to rescue Jennifer in the ambulance and later in the hospital, the woman died. Natural causes were cited as the cause of death for this 29-year-old. No drugs or toxins were detected in her body, and there were no signs of external or internal effects. An autopsy revealed severe myocarditis, which had not previously been diagnosed with any problems.

life without shadows

After her sister’s death, Jun started talking, stopped getting psychiatric care, moved to live near her parents’ house and, in keeping with the agreement, decided to leave the past behind. The family blamed Jennifer’s death at Broadmoor Hospital, but decided to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that she would not bring their daughter back to life.

In addition to Marjorie Wallace, the story of the Gibbons sisters has inspired other filmmakers. In 1986, the film “Silent Sister” was produced on BBC2, which shows the fictional story of the sisters. BBC1 document “Silent Twin – Without My Shadow” available on YouTube 1994. Manic Street Preachers recorded the song “Tsunami”, inspired by the twins’ fate. In 2011, the play “Speechless” was shown in London based on Wallace’s book.

“The Silent Twins” directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska

During the 75th Cannes Film Festival, the Poles presented two dialects: Jerzy Skolimowski presented his film “IO”, while Agnieszka Smoczyńska also screened “Silent Twins” in the Un Certain Regard category. Shortly after its release, the film began to collect rave reviews from critics from all over the world. It is rumored that after Focus Features bought the distribution rights in the United States, the film launched an Academy Award-winning campaign.

Co-producers: Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”), Tamara Lawrence (“The Long Song”), Nadine Marshall, Triva Etienne and Judy May (“The Witcher”). Responsible for production, among others Klaudia Śmieja-Rostworowska (“Szarlatan”, “Citizen Jones”), Ewa Puszczyńska (“Ida,” “Cold War”) and Letitia Wright.

Gutek Film is behind the Polish distribution. The date of the Polish premiere has not yet been announced.

Source: The Silent Twins – Without My Shadow, Carolina Anna

See also: The cast of Stranger Things season 4

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