"He's leaving, oh my god!" # 39; and I'm "Oh my God!" He becomes "Holy Crap!" And I'll "Holy Crap!" Says Bobby Shafran at the beginning of Three Identical Strangers new documentary and early Oscars candidate By Tim Wardle, Friday in Cinemas, Bobby just described how he came to his first day of school at the Sullivan County Community College in the Catskills in the fall of 1980: boys clapped him on the back and girls kissed him on the lips, he says. and for some reason, everyone called him "Eddy." When he finally met his campus doppelganger, he learned that both had been adopted by the Louise Wise Services agency in New York City 19 years earlier. "His eyes are my eyes and eyes my eyes are his eyes – and it was true, "Bobby says as he closes Inem identical twin comes. "It was as if the world had died away and me and Eddy."
The story, however, becomes stranger. So much stranger. After the news of Bobby and Eddy's fortuitous meeting had made the tabloids, a third adoptee appeared-David, her triple-hit. All three were born in 1961 and sent to different families without caring for their siblings. Wardle's film portrays the viral tabloid fame that followed: the boys were briefly celebrated in the club scene; they appeared in magazines, photographed by Annie Leibovitz; They had roles in a movie with Madonna; and they made the rounds on TV and interviewed Phil Donahue and Tom Brokaw. And then – here comes the big revelation of the movie – it's about discovering the boys, with the help of New York writer Lawrence Wright in the mid-1990s, that they had been separated for science.
As Wright found out, the boys were part of a secret study led by two prominent Freudian psychiatrists, Viola Bernard and Peter Neubauer, and nursed by Louise Wise Services. In the sixties and seventies, rows of twins and triplets – it was never revealed exactly how many of them were affected – were split up and sent to separate homes to move on to puberty. Bobby, Eddy, and David had been sent to a wealthy family in Scarsdale, a middle-class family in Long Island and a working-class family in Queens. In the following years, researchers would occasionally turn up and measure their IQ and motor skills, take note of their behaviors, and observe how their parents treated them. It was the first and only such experiment ever conducted: a conscious and prospective look at nature over care. The results of this study were never published, and the twins themselves should never know of its existence.
Even without the data being locked up by 2066, Three Identical Strangers attempts to address the same fundamental question: she meditates on the elements of human destiny and traces the boy's deep connection to all these Years and then how their lives would split. The triplets had a failure. In 1995, Eddy committed suicide. Was his death a function of the triplets – some darkened base pairs in their DNA – that Bobby and David were lucky enough to escape? Or was Eddy's sadness marked by his life experience – a tragedy of education and the home that left him studying? Wardle sorts the anecdotal data in his film for an answer. Bobby's father was attentive when he had the time, the movie suggests. David's father was a teddy bear.
Eddy's father was very strict and emotionally distant. Could that have made the difference?
It is a very grim suggestion that a parent's failure could have such tragic consequences. But according to the thesis of the film, it is also an uplifting. If Eddy's family was a driver of his tragic fate, the film says, then Bobby's family was just as much the engine of his happier ending, and so was David's. Her childhood had saved her . "I believe that nature and care are both important," says David's Aunt Wardle in the final moments of the film, "but I think nursing can overcome almost anything."
However, the story of this story has another strange coincidence – and another unexpected reflection. In late 2012, when Tim Wardle first learned about the triplets and filmed his documentary, he realized he was not alone. A filmmaker named Lori Shinseki had already spoken with the two surviving triplets and Lawrence Wright, as well as several of the other major sources of history. She had been working on a documentary on the same subject for several years and had even helped the brothers get some secret records from the nature care study. From then on, Wardle's and Shinseki's films were shot in parallel.
Shinseki did not have the same resources as Wardle – he would put CNN behind his film – and so she ended up with a combination of her own money and a grant from a family foundation. Her 55-minute film, The Twinning Reaction played from the beginning of 2017 almost a full year before Three Identical Strangers in Sundance. In March of this year, a repackaged version of Shinseki's film appeared on ABC 20/20 .
The overlap between the films is sometimes eerie: Shinseki, like Wardle, told Bobby the story of his first day at Community College – the boys hit him on the back, the girls kiss him on the lips, everyone calls him Eddy , When they finally met, Bobby said in The Twinning Reaction : "We both left, & oh my God, oh my god … holy crap! & # 39; Both documentaries also feature expanded material from the interview with Brokaw. Both of them share the same vintage photos of the brothers with their pug-haired pug hair from the early '80s. And both tell of Eddy's widow how she fell in love with him when she touched his fleshy hand.
The overlap between the films is at times scary.
Shinseki's documentary, like Wardle's, goes to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to meet Lawrence Perlman, a psychologist who briefly worked on data collections, the secret study in the late 1960s. Both use the same photo of a crazy Perlman from his youth. Both films visit Austin, Texas for an interview with Lawrence Wright. Both have interviews with the author in his study. Both follow when he travels to his storage closet. Both have him open a cardboard box labeled "Gemini". Both show the microcassette he finds in it. Both play a selection from these recordings, which led Wright in the nineties with Neubauer. And both films do their best to reflect on the importance of this research and its legacy.
This does not mean that the documentation is identical. For one, Shinseki does not put the triplets at the center of her story. She follows several other study twins, including one whose sister Marge also committed suicide. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the two documentary projects that start so much and share so much material should have landed in such different places in relation to their crucial question: how exactly had this experiment influenced people's lives? If Three Identical Strangers found a kind of answer in their parents who pulled their children out of the quicksand of their DNA – or if they could push them deeper – then The twinning reaction turns the Review of the researchers themselves.
It is striking that these documentary projects, which start so similarly, should have landed in places as diverse as .
Shinseki discovered in 1978 a crucial confidential note from Bernard that helps explain how the study came about. Bernard had told the adoption agency to split her twins in the 1950s, before the study even started. (It would seem that the secret study is just a continuation of this pre-existing policy.) In this way, the psychiatrist said, "Early maternity would be less burdened and divided, and the developing individuality of the child would be made easier." This theory was not well founded the research of the time, and in retrospect it is a total bunk. On the other hand, it is also true that Louise Wise Services was not the only place where siblings – even identical twins – were released for adoption. Separate twin couples may be rare, but they are not unknown. An important retrospective study conducted at the University of Minnesota between 1979 and 1999 would draw on data from 137 groups of volunteer twins who were separately reared and later reunited. (Even though Bernard's and Neubauer's study was eventually published, it's hard to say how their sample of participants – most likely only a few – would tell us everything we did not know yet – the Minnesota study and others have their style provided many useful data on the nature-versus-nutrition issue.)
Bernard's memo also claimed that the separations would have to happen in secret. All the benefits of sibling splitting "would be psychologically negated," she wrote if the children or their families knew they were twins. The popular belief in the "mysticism" of the twin connections made this even more important, she added. She continued, "Given these 'predominant and emotionally charged attitudes,' it seemed psychologically safer for the adoptive family … to be free from the existence of a biological twin."
But the same memo also made an important concession, which eventually plays a central role in Shinseki's film: If the twins were old enough to develop a significant "twin reaction" before adoption – that is, if they formed a connection with each other during the nursing time – then it would be wrong, explains Bernard, to divide them.
Shinseki's film shows that at least one pair of twins from the study had the opportunity to form this connection. Clinical records that helped her to maintain show that the twins had been together for six months before being sent to different families. According to these documents, they also moved together – and formed a twin connection – since they were about 4 months old.
Louise Wise Services was not the only place to split identical twins for adoption.
If this connection were really there, could the separation of these twins have left a lasting wound? The twins believe that anyway. "Maybe if that had not happened, some of the hard spots would not have been that hard," she says, choking.
Marge's mother wonders the same thing. "How about if they grew up together?" She asks Shinseki, thinking about Marge's suicide. "Was sadness because of the way they were separated?"
Even Eddy's widow suggests that the violence of being pulled away as a child by his two brothers could have contributed to his fate. "He had a hard time letting go of the stolen 18 years," she says. "I think he was devastated, I think he was traumatized."
In Shinseki's film, these survivors offer a very different understanding of the nature education study, in which they were all forced to play a role. Neubauer and Bernard had intended to study the effects of different families, knowing that the genetics of the children were all the same. If Bobby, Eddy, and David had outgrown the same egg and spermatozoa, the psychiatrists argued, then all the ways they differed in childhood would have to be the product of their home environment. But perhaps they have overlooked an important variable: their own involvement in the lives of children. Was not that also part of how the twins were raised and a facet of their upbringing?