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  • Lars Henriks

Mysterium Pictorum 07 - A TALE OF TWO SISTERS

Listen to our full discussion of this 2000's horror classic on our new podcast series Mysterium Pictorum! Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else, too!


It's funny how very universal certain fairytale tropes are. So universal, in fact, they keep creeping up on you in real life.

Like, for example, the classic Grimm's fairytale constellation of two children, often a brother and a sister, getting into a new environment, without supervision, where at first it seems like things are going their way, but evil people want to harm them. When, recently, Nisan and I adopted two little kittens, a brother and a sister, who were very weary of us for the first couple of days, I kept thinking about "Hänsel and Geretel", with us being the witches, offering them food, but in their mind obviously for sinister purposes.

The classic archetype of the evil stepmother, which is the second huge fairytale trope used in the story "A Tale of two Sisters" is based on, is another one of those that seems to have a constant place in reality, according to everyone I know who has or had a stepmother, without exception.

When I watched "A Tale of Two Sisters", it was after a sleepless night, because our fairytale cats had had diarrhea - Everywhere.

Now, sitting in a finally clean flat, tired and exhausted, I was happy and thankful for a classic, immersive story, doing the familiar in exciting new ways, whisking me away into worlds resonating with childhood memories (listening to fairytale readings on cassette tapes while painting pictures of monsters) and finding innovative ways to surprise me in those.

Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, the fairytale source for this movie, has been adapted many, many times - Twice even as a silent film. I've looked for the first filmed version, but couldn't find it. If anyone knows where to get it- Please tell me! Interestingly, there's a Grimm's fairytale, "Von Dem Machandelboom", that very closely resembles "Janghwa Hongryeon jeon", proving story once again to transcend place and time.

"A Tale of Two Sisters" changes the original story so drastically, it barely resembles its source anymore - Only the strong, eternal tropes at its core remain intact. In the end, the film is very much of its time, offering up several twists, one of which being a true classic that has been done a thousand times, the two other ones enriching the concept massively.

I haven't yet figured out the structural mechanisms, with which Korean movies keep surprising me so much all the time - And I don't want to. "A Tale of Two Sisters" kept me involved and guessing, which was exactly what I needed.

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