A Tale Of Two Sisters

A Tale Of Two Sisters


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Asian ghost stories are quite the rage, which is another way of saying that Hollywood can't do them any more, because CGI is too much of a temptation. What about Mexico and South America? They understand magic realism, it's true, and some of their directors have bizarre imaginations, but what the Japanese - and now a South Korean - are so clever at is reflecting the cracked mirror of the subconscious.

What is real and what is not real is the question. Does the past climb into a pouch under the skin of your heartbone and slowly gnaw its way through soft tissue until the pain of remembrance drives you mad.

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Writer/director Kim ji-woon tells the story of two sisters, a dead mother, a weak father and a manipulative step-mother by restricting the radius of activity to a big house in the country and filming mostly at night. Also, time is distorted so that past and present merge into a single experience, as if the dead walk with us, and family secrets are protected by a veil of silence.

The sisters are at an age when likes and dislikes are so clear and ambiguity is mocked as gutless. Sy-yeon (Mun geun-yeong) is the quiet, thoughtful one. Su-mi (Lim su-jeong) hates everything - the house, being there, Father's inability to respond emotionally, her step-mother's power surges.

So much is hinted at, whispered under the breath. Truth seeps through sodden layers of blood-soaked memory, imitated in dreams, so that nothing can be entirely trusted. Su-mi's mental state might be described as hysterical. Her step-mother's is more calculating, although equally disturbed.

For all its tricksy plot devises, this is a superior psychological thriller, beautifully handled by the actors, especially Lim su-jeong, who conveys fear with an almost unbearable tension.

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2004
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Skeletons rattle in the cupboard of a haunted South Korean family.
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Director: Kim ji-woon

Writer: Kim ji-woon

Starring: Lim su-jeong, Yum jung-ah, Kim kap-su, Mun geun-yeong

Year: 2003

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: South Korea


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