Thursday, September 13, 2012

TOTAL RECALL - Hey, that's not my wife!

Before someone asks me, I saw the movie in the cheap theater. And this time, I don't even feel sorry for the spoilers, because they spoiled pretty much all surprises in the trailer anway. It was an entertaining three dollar afternoon.
Moving on to the spotting: I kind of made it a challenge for myself to spot traditional stories in a fast-paced action movie remake. It really seemed like I won't have much to work with. Then I started thinking about it some more, and realized the biggest spotting chance was right under my nose, in the form of the psycho fake wife.

At first, I was thinking along the lines of the Corpse Bride. Most of you know that story as a Tim Burton movie (an excellent one too), but to some of you it might not come as a surprise that the movie is based on a Jewish folktale, published (among others) by Carissa Pinkola Estés in Women who run with the wolves. This is her own take on the folktale though, so careful with the copyright.
In some other variants from Jewish folktale collections, the wife that the poor groom didn't expect to be married to turns out to be a demon rather than a corpse. Getting warmer aren't we?

From Corpse Bride it was only a step further to the False Bride. The False Bride is a folktale type (classified by Aarne and Thompson as 403A), also known in the politically incorrect olden days as "The White Bride and the Black One." In folktales that belong to this type, the hero first falls in love, then has to leave his bride behind, and while he is away, someone puts a spell on him to make him forget all about his love. He ends up marrying, or almost marrying, an evil fake bride instead, until the real girl shows up, helps him regain his memory, and gets rid of the fake wife.
Are we there yet?
Yes we are!

Let's see some examples.

The folktale type was named after a Grimm fairy tale, you can read it here.

A similar ending has been attached to the bear husband tale I have mentioned before, known as East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Many other variants have a very similar ending.

Interestingly enough, the 17th century Italian fairy tale collection known as the Pentamerone has several tales with this motif. One is the frame story itself; another one is known as Pintosmalto, and a third one is the Three Citrons. In other versions it is sometimes three apples or three oranges. Be warned, these stories are not politically correct.

Madame D'Aulnoy also used the motif in one of her fairy tales, known as the Peacock King.

I am in no way trying to claim that the creators (or re-creators) or Total Recall cracked open the Aarne-Thompson folktale index before they sat down to write the screenplay. I am just pointing out that plot twists that fit entertainingly well into modern action movies are in no way modern inventions; they have been quietly moseying around in the back of our minds for hundreds of years.
Who would not be afraid of marrying the wrong woman, after all?

1 comment: