A Tale of Two Sisters Review
I knew nothing about A Tale Of Two Sisters before being sent two plain-looking PR discs to review. I sat down with a little trepidation to watch the movie, not quite sure what to expect - something Ju-on: The Grudge style or would this be a Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance type affair? As it happens it falls into neither category, but now I've experienced Ji-woon Kim's masterpiece of direction I want everybody to see what I now regard as a South Korean classic. The cinematography is simply fantastic - the movie is filmed in a way that resonates with my personal preferences - lots of slightly quirky camera angles, some beautiful scenery shots, and a house that is made to appear creepy and alive with the torment of those that live there. Just in case I haven't made myself clear - I really like this movie!
As for plot... well this is one of those occasions when to share anything other than the obvious would be to give the game away - and believe me, when you truly understand the story the sense of “Eureka” is worth every quizzical moment of perplexing furrow browing that finally leads to that enlightenment. Janghwa, Hongryeon - the film's Korean title - starts in a hospital, with Su-mi (Su-jeong Lim) being questioned by a doctor. The room is large and sparsely decorated, and the two actors sit at a table opposite each other with the young girl clearly having been traumatised, and virtually catatonic. Cut to outdoor scene with Su-mi and her sister Su-Yeon being driven home by their father; Su-mi is clearly better, but those around her are obviously concerned for her fragile health/state of mind. The two girls are close, and despite an air of carefree attitude to life it is clear that beneath the loving surface a cauldron of emotion lies ready to explode. And explode it does: the dinner guest scene really sets things up nicely, reminding me of the scene from that strangest of strange movies Eraserhead. (There's also a clear reference to Hitchcock's Psycho shower scene at one point - the screechy violins are unmistakeable.) It's here that the horror really begins - not jump out of your seat type horror, although it has its moments, but deeply disturbing type stuff - creepy, tormenting... chilling.
The Father/Stepmother/Two Daughters unit lends for some classic psychological drama, with twists and turns that make movies like the aforementioned Ju-on: The Grudge and Sympathy For Mr. Lawrence seem simple, straight-forward affairs! The satisfaction of finally “getting it” makes the movie-watching experience all the more satisfying - even it if does (it did with me!) take a couple of attempts to fully understand proceedings. And that's the beauty of A Tale Of Two Sisters - it's one of those movies that remain interesting even after multiple viewings, so that its complexities can be shared with family and friends, divulging further secrets along the way. I need to say it one more time I said - I really enjoyed this movie!