This animated short, etched directly onto tinted 70 mm film, depicts the story of two sisters: Viola, who writes novels in a dark room, and Marie, her only companion. Disfigured, Viola counts on her sister to take care of her and shelter her from the outside world. But when an unexpected stranger turns up on their front door, the sisters' quiet lives are disrupted and their routine turns to chaos.
Caroline Leaf made this tour de force in the technique pioneered by McLaren – that of etching directly into the emulsion of the film. Leaf herself pioneered the techniques of animating sand and oil on a light box directly under a camera. A legendary perfectionist, Leaf said that she was tired of working for an eternity locked away in dark rooms. If she scratched directly into film stock, she would be able to make a film quickly. For Two Sisters, she decided to use 70 mm Imax film with different coloured emulsions, e.g., black or green. Perfectionism, however, reared its head and Leaf was still stuck in a dark room animating for two years. But it was worth it. This story of the relationship between two sisters, one disfigured, which is disturbed by the appearance of a male stranger is wonderfully animated and profoundly emotional. In 1974 I watched the silent test print of another Caroline Leaf film – The Owl that Married a Goose– with Norman McLaren. I was speechless. McLaren wept.Donald McWilliams
From the playlist: Norman McLaren: Hands-on Animation