Three Identical Strangers - A Documentary

One of the best documentaries I have ever seen is titled Three Identical Strangers.

Major Elements

Although this story is filled with great twists and turns, ultimately it ends on a relatively sad note. Since this is not fictional but in fact real life, and life doesn't always turn out how we picture.

Element #1, 2, 3 - Subjects, Plot/Purpose & Form:

This story starts in 1980 with a young teenage boy named Bobby Shafran who arrives on the New York Community College campus and is immediately recognized as Eddy Galland. The two boys, both knowing they had been adopted, met and quickly realized they we identical twins who had been separated at birth. If that isn't intriguing enough, months after their story had gained publicity and attraction, a third twin named David Kellman emerged thus dubbing the trio the Three Identical Strangers.

Element #4 - Climax & Plot Twist:

As the three bonded, they shared many similarities and quickly gained media popularity. From appearing on talk shows to even starting a restaurant together, the boys grew close into adulthood although, differences in them would become more apparent as they matured. Each twin ultimately suffered from different mental health issues and tragically one twin took his own life in 1995. However, the story does not stop there. Just when we think the climax has hit, we are completely blindsided by the answer of why these boys were separated in the first place. It is discovered that when the boys were born, they were apart of a study by psychiatrists for the Jewish Board of Guardians, that placed them into different adoptive families and observed their behavior over the years. The full extent of this study was never disclosed to the adoptive parents. Although the adoption agency claimed the boys were separated due to the struggle of finding a family who would take triplets, it was then discovered the real reason for this was to place the boys in families of different classes and economic status to study if they would act differently from being raised differently even though they are identical twins.

The story ends with the loss of a brother to suicide and families being devastated. The brothers also decide to split on their business together and go their separate ways career wise. Although the families still remain in contact, there doesn't seem to a light at the end of the tunnel type of ending, instead its more of a life-goes-on ending and the remaining two men function as normal people in society.

Element #5 - Themes:

This story has many themes but the major theme is family. No matter if blood or not, family will stick by your side. Another theme that could be argued here is that of unjust social experiments that can hinder mental health in individuals involved.

The Filmmaker's Draw

The start of this documentary is one that drew me in personally by hearing the story of how these triplets met. This documentary uses lots of emotional draw to make the viewer empathetic toward the subjects and situation going on. I remember another draw that really stuck with me was the part when they told the story about the brother David who committed suicide in 1995. As someone who has been impacted by a family suicide, this made me feel the loss that the subjects were feeling. Especially since I could relate to loosing someone you were just getting to know.

Another draw this documentary really got me with was the use of lighting and the grey background when interviewing the subjects. I personally am a huge sucker for good lighting and something about documentary interviews always makes me more intrigued to watch.

Incorporation of Ideas Into My Own Documentary

Visually, I really enjoyed the way the interviews were done. If I had to incorporate an interview into my next project, I would use a similar background set up and lighting scenario to accent features on my subjects face. Also the technique of having the subject not look directly in the camera when speaking is a great laid back sort of tone to the overall story. It can also present a shy element which usually makes people have even more empathy and relation with the subjects.