Original Title: Hanyo
Director & Writer: Kim Ki-young
Starring: Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo, Kim Jin Kyu
Plot: "The film is a domestic horror thriller telling of a family's destruction by the introduction of a sexually predatory femme fatale into the household. A piano composer has just moved into a two-story house with his wife and two children. When his pregnant wife becomes exhausted from working at a sewing machine to support the family, the composer hires a housemaid to help with the work around the house." - Wikipedia
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WHAT I WAS EXPECTING:I really don't have much experiences with regards to Korean cinema, let alone a 1960 black and white film, so I didn't know what to expect. I saw HORROR, DRAMA, FEMME FATALE, THRILLER - so I just assumed it's a scorned mistress who dies then comes back as an angry ghost haunting and scaring the living daylights out of the household members. LOL me and my cliches.
WHAT THE MOVIE REALLY IS:Black and white. Generic plot - a family's normal life disrupted by women obsessed with a married man. Just plain drama, minus the horror ghost story (thank god! I can only watch filipino/american horror movies - bec asian horror is just truly superior & 100% creepy and I can't handle it.). In other words, it's your typical run-of-the-mill drama movie. Nothing more to expect, right?
Well what I didn't expect was that this seemingly average film with all it's simple elements or limitations has managed to turn it into something complex and with thrilling unpredictability. I was shocked - to actually see this masterpiece hiding in obscurity, and enjoy it immensely.
Everything about it screams classic, and yet it's techniques are even better than most modern movies. The director is a genius. The story itself, instead of sticking to the formula of its genre, has written a convoluted story of human morality, obsessive love, betrayal in such a way that you really can't predict what will happen; and made it so thrilling that you find yourself on the edge of your seat, waiting for the scene to unfold. What also made this film more interesting is that the villain is a female sexual predator with a seemingly unstable personality - which defies how Korean women at that time should act in society. This antagonist gets what she wants and she took control and made everyone around her submissive to her wishes. I wouldn't expound on the plot/story anymore. You just have to watch it.
The acting is great. One of the best from any cast I've seen. Even the children were so damn effective (esp the boy). The housemaid, hands down, is the star of this movie. She is so freaky and terrifying, but still managed to evoke my sympathy. The couple did great too. Each one of them are worthy of praise because if handled sloppily, their characters will lose something. Whether they'll lose the sympathy from the audience, or credibility. Superior acting. (I've read that the actress who played the housemaid has been so effective that women hated her so much that movie producers were hesitant to cast her in other projects. Her career went to a screeching halt. Pity.)
My favorite aspect of this movie is its camera works. Wow. I really love it. It reminded me of Hitchcock, with its playful camera angles, & uncommon camera movements, zooming in and out from one room to another in a fluid technique. Every shot has a purpose, even the littlest, seemingly random things in the house helped in adding to the sinister feel of the movie. Add in the piano sounds properly injected in scenes, the result is an ominous, creepy mood all throughout. The editing is very clean and seamless. I really like that fade out-fade in transition of scenes. Unlike the movies nowadays with their lazy editing.
This film has been restored and the result was great with sharp black & white photography, and even with those scenes that are patchy/blurry, the product is magnificent. The lighting is great. Again, this is a superior movie, can't stress that enough. :)
The ending was totally unexpected but I surely liked it. In fact, it's what made this film perfect for me (of course aside from everything i just mentioned). It's the cherry on top. Besides, if they didn't do that, I wouldn't have liked the last scene where the wife said "Oh, if only I hadn't wanted the new house." Referring to her argument with his husband about why he had cheated on her. I was like oh no no no mister! do NOT justify your betrayal because your wife wanted a bigger house! -_-
One thing that I wanted to change though is the length of the movie. For me, 2 hours is too long for a story with that ending. But then again I couldn't think of a single scene which I could throw away. Every scene, however small or random, is woven so artistically and helped in the plot and character development. So yeah. Couldn't edit out anything. I think the reason why I'm complaining is because I was watching it on Youtube and I hate watching movies online, sitting in this uncomfortable chair. So maybe it has nothing to do with the movie, and everything to do with the flat, useless cushion under my butt. -_-
Before I end this review, I also want to add another favorite aspect of this film. THE SLIDING DOORS. O_O I have never seen a movie which involves ALOT of sliding doors being opened and closed. O_O I'm not sure if you will agree, but to me, it added something to the movie. It added tension. And flavor. The housemaid and the sliding doors worked so well together it's really amusing but also impressive - it shows that she's still an outsider even in the same house, and when she peeks thru the doors it shows her tendencies to overstep boundaries. The sliding doors and the guy showed the viewers his rejection and anguish. With the wife, it shows unconditional devotion willing to turn a blind eye on what's about to happen to the housemaid. I LOVE THE SLIDING DOORS AND THE SOUNDS THEY MAKE!! LOL
The Verdict:It's obvious. This is a great film. So simple and yet so complicated. It teaches you that love should be taken seriously and treated responsibly, and that one mistake, whether it's intentional or not, could turn your world upside down. A brilliant, timeless masterpiece that must have been controversial during its time, and still relevant in this modern age.
4.5/5 - Definitely worth watching.
Do you think the villain (housemaid) has a redeeming quality?
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