Eye For Film >> Movies >> A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003) Film Review
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.
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