Three sisters --- immovable power.. the magic number...the trinity. A solid bloc of womanhood where sisters can't help but become witches.
Why three? Two women can be turned on one another; four women get lost in chatter; but three, should they stand united, cannot fall. No man, nor army, can stand up to them. They might be killed by Nazis, but they can't be stood up to. They represent a feminine solidarity - an unknowable, strange concentration of feminine power. Three allows both intimacy and group dynamics without being bound to the pitfalls of either. This facilitates a rare and magic alchemical union of three souls that can become more than the sum of their parts.
There are groups of four sisters in the movies -- Meet Me in Saint Louis, Little Women, but they never quite rise to the thrize; they mute each other out with over-talking and end up surrendering to one leader, i.e. Jo or Judy, rather than the perfect interaction of equal parts that is the number of three. With three there is constant support and competition. Each can take a part that leads to a calculated whole. Two and they get too conspiratorial and overly intimate, a kind of straight same sex pair bond that gets incestuous with no link left for the outside world. Four and it's practically a party. Three / is the magic number. There's always room for us to imagine stepping in and seducing one, but never shattering their connection.
|top: Heavenly Creatures, Meet Me in Saint Louis, Macbeth (2006)|
Even fans of Spielberg's perhaps best film have some qualms about the framing narrative involving the elderly Ryan staggering possessed and gut-broken through Arlington, his wife, daughter and three hot granddaughters walking behind from a respectful distance, like they're following a drunken baby on his first brace of steps. We never get to linger our gaze but that girl in the center with the pink tight pants and lavender shirt naturally hooks our attention.
The power of the three daughters is employed the same way it is below, for Inglourious Basterds: three beautiful daughters in an occupied Europe would be like a five year slow heart attack of anxiety for any father. These three girls sense that, and they respectfully trail behind in awe of grandfather's experience of true horror in the name of a better life for daughters everywhere; they can wear those inviting, sweet pastels. One look at them and you know they've never had a rough day in their lives. They've never been lost in the woods or fighting against huns or starving in attics or terrified under floorboards. Their soft color health bespeaks Ryan's life as a success -- the 'wealth of feminin American' What they lack in sophistication they make up for in un-trampled surface sensuality.
2. The three darker-haired dairy farmer daughters in Inglourious Basterds (2009)
The daughters here are much darker in lighting and mood and represent, if you will, the 'before' to the Ryan's granddaughters' happy ever after. Ingeniously, Quentin and Waltz make Hans Landa a cultured intellectual, a superficially charming and meticulous man, his greetings to the lovely daughters, kissing the hand of the prettiest and saddest (on the right), a redhead who looks down at him with eyes lidded to hide her weary terror, belie that he represents the evil that has created the tension of both films, and here we see what life would be like for any nervous father with three beautiful young daughters in an occupied country run by genocidal thugs.
|Top: Clash of the Titans (2010) / Macbeth (1948)|
'Power of Three' has to do with Alchemy. The Egyptian god Thoth or the Greek Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice Blessed or Thrice Great) are the progenitors of the Emerald Tablets describing the mysteries of Alchemy. The alchemy of three is demonstrated by its power of multiplicity. For example, in understanding the numbers - One gave rise to Two (1+1=2) and Two gave Rise to Three (2+1=3) and Three gave rise to all numbers (3+1=4, 3+2=5, 3+3=6, 3+4=7, 3+5=8 3+6=9). Thus in addition to being a number of good fortune, Three is also the number of multiplicity and alchemy among other things. Many believe the Triquetrais an ancient symbol of the female trinity, because it is composed of three interlaced yonic Vesica Pisces (a.k.a. PiscisSLatin for "Vessel of the Fish") and is the most basic and important construction in Sacred Geometry, which is the architecture of the universe. A Vesica is formed when the circumference of two identical circles each pass through the center of the other in effect creating a portal. 'The Triquetra' represents the 'Power of Three' or the threefold nature of existence i.e. body, mind and spirit; life, death and rebirth; past, present and future; beginning, middle and end; Sun, Moon and Earth; and the threefold co-creative process described as thought, word, and deed." (Crystalinks)
There's numerous examples of the three sisters in television, including the three evil (or are they?) genius Russian sisters of Alias. One is Sidney Bristo's mother, a former KGB agent, the other two are even more insidious and deadly. The great thing about this early J.J. Abrams show is that his full attention seems to be on it, so the level of intelligence and forward thinking is astounding. These sisters aren't fooling around, and if there's ever some secret we learn about them, it's because they want us to know it, and so therefore it's probably not true.
- 20. Thence come the maidens
- mighty in wisdom,
- Three from the dwelling
- down 'neath the tree;
- Urth is one named,
- Verthandi the next,--
- On the wood (runes) they scored,--
- and Skuld the third.
- Laws they made there,
- and life allotted
- To the sons of men,
- and set their fates.-- Vafþrúðnismál
If you can stand its mounting panic attack quiet, Ingmar Bergman's ultimate depressant CRIES AND WHISPERS pays off with a tragic series of events that among other things would stand as a good argument for gay marriage. It's Sweden at the turn of the century during the endless nights of winter, and Nordic depression make isolation in red rooms (!!) a matter of being so far past the realms of time and space that you feel caught like a fly in the manic-depressive ointment that's been the Swedish birthright since the Ice Age.
And we learn, presumably, the origin story of all subsequent auteurs' genital self-mutilation fascinations, i.e. ANTICHRIST, BLACK SWAN and THE PIANO TEACHER; and out of the weird symbiotic passing of traits between the two living sisters at the climax comes, if nothing else, Altman's 3 WOMEN. CRIES is one of Bergman's more unflinchingly bleak films but made with shocking confidence, and not a drop of music. It's so quiet we can hear people breathing from whole rooms away and each toll of a clock resounds through the red rooms like a John Donne mortal disencoiler.
But also it's a film for anyone who loves powerhouse acting: there's some malevolent depressive monologues so bitter they make Woody Allen's tepid INTERIORS--clearly a homage to this film--seem like one of his"earlier, funny ones." HANNAH is a better option but to me it's always seemed a little more Rohmer than Bergman-esque. Then again, I quote Max Von Sydow's role nonstop. "I do not sell my art by the yard!"
Maurice Chevalier, nothing but a tailor, wins the instant approval of these three spinster aunts, seen above drawing him towards them, basically, via an alchemical spell undertaken to cure their princess of her fainting condition. The doctor examines the princess, who feels like she's wasting away, "with a figure like that? You're not wasted away / you're just wasted." The heart, soul, and Greek chorus of the picture, these ladies cluck and bark like hens and/or puppies at various times, always in perfect syncopation, as is their wont as part of the elaborate musical tapestry woven here by the great Robert Mamoulian.
Fathomlessly old and evil, they feed off the psychic energy of youth, and leave breadcrumb clues to draw innocent blood to them, like gingerbread house flippers. These ladies on the other hand brook no sass.
But these ladies are too sexy to brook anything else.
And these, who knows?
|Rose McGowan, Alysa Milano, Holly Marie Combs - Charmed|
|The Three Weird Sisters from 90s kid cartoon Gargoyles.|
12. The Manson sisters; Sharon Tate, Patty Duke and Barbara Parkins - The Valley of the Dolls (1967)
Maybe it's the height of bad taste to link these two sets of sisters together, since the Manson girls are responsible for the slaying of Valley star Sharon Tate in one of the grisliest crimes of the era. But given the subject matter of Valley of the Dolls it makes sense. We should remember that 'dolls' means Valiums, the designer drug of choice for the pampered but hard-working LA elite. As that crushing song by Andre and Dory Previn sinks any last trace of hope, the girls rise and fall and only one survives, by moving home (New England) for the winter, and getting respectable. Patty Duke falls off the wagon and ends up freaking out in an alleyway that seems more enclosed than a closet, and Sharon Tate ODs once she realizes she'll never be free of her grubbing manipulative, soul-crushing mom who doesn't care her daughter has to do Eurosleaze to pay her diseased husband's medical bills. When the three 'sisters' stand together they are strong, but they don't stand together that often and even when they do we worry show business will chew them up and spit them out, use them for sex, dub it into French, and then not pay them royalties.
Sisters help us, the charm's unwound.
Where will we / how will we / learn who we are now?