Agnieszka Smoczynska’s weird, whimsical and dark film “The Silent Twins” feels like a small miracle. In a cinematic landscape where it seems there’s only room for the bombastic or the glamorous predictable, the weird and heartfelt gems that manage to sneak in are to be celebrated.
Adapted by Andrea Seigel from the 1986 book by Marjorie Wallace, “The Silent Twins” is a creative, quirky and fantastical biopic of June and Jennifer Gibbons, British twins from Wales who only communicated with each other and through their writing. creative. It’s the third feature by Polish filmmaker Smoczynska, who broke through in 2015 with her debut, ‘The Lure,’ a mermaid horror musical, and it brings an equally inventive approach to imagining the world. Islander of June and Jennifer.
The text at the end indicates that the Gibbons’ written work was incorporated throughout, including their poems, novels, and short stories. Many of these pieces have been adapted literally, into rather gruesome stop-motion animation sequences carefully crafted by Barbara Rupik. The first is the story of a couple of parrots living in a golden cage, losing all their purple feathers. The second is a fable about a doctor and his wife who must sacrifice a loved one for the life of their baby. Rupik’s work is both grotesque and charming, providing a playful and melancholic texture.
Smoczynska brings us into the pink subjectivity of June and Jennifer first. It’s all close-ups and soft light as the girls play host to a radio show, to the tunes of T. Rex. But as soon as you see them like others from the outside, everything is cold, dark and hard. They are silent, their heads bowed, engaged in a battle of wills against the world.
Leah Mondesir-Simmonds and Eva-Arianna Baxter play childhood twins, beautifully capturing the shades of dark and light in their young lives, sweet young girls enduring bullies, special education and institutional separation. Letitia Wright portrays the adult June, with Tamara Lawrance playing the role of Jennifer. As adults, they have settled into a difficult family routine, with silence somewhat tolerated. Their parents are immigrants from Barbados, members of the Windrush generation, recently chronicled in Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe” series.
The twins decide to enroll in a correspondence writing course, which is both their salvation and their downfall. They decide they need to experience romance and material danger, and seduce an American jock named Wayne (Jack Bandeira), who introduces the sisters to sex, alcohol, and sex. joys of blown paint. These fantasy-filled sequences run a line between fact and fiction, but their increasingly reckless actions still land the sisters in the notorious Broadmoor psychiatric hospital. At 19, they are given an indefinite reprieve, and that’s when the real horrors begin.
Seigel’s rather refreshing script doesn’t bother to explain why the sisters are the way they are, simply giving us access to their inner world without too much psychological explanation. But if the film fails, it’s in its swoon from the racism the twins suffered at school that led to their removal. Without explicitly addressing some of the external factors that led to their condition, it allows the audience to simply assume that they are under the spell of some inexplicable two-man madness, when in fact their disorder has a material genesis.
Despite this reluctance to engage with some of the harsher realities of their history, “The Silent Twins” is an incredibly unique viewing experience rendered in Smoczynska’s singular cinematic vision. It’s a beautiful blend of unforgettable physical performances and visual lyricism focused on the tragic life story of the Gibbons twins, their wildly imaginative writing woven like a sparkling thread, offering a brief glimpse into their realm of existence and imagination.
“The Silent Twins”
Rated R: for drug use, certain sexual content, nudity, disturbing language and material
Duration: 113 minutes