High-schoolers Yeo-jin and Jae-young would like to go to Europe but they don't have the money. Prostitution is one way of getting it. Yeo-jin contacts clients via chatrooms, instant messenger and mobile phone and generally handles the business side of things while Jae-young deals with the clients themselves.

Things go fine until, caught in an apartment as the police make a raid, Jae-young leaps out of the window in a bid to escape and is fatally injured. Seeking to make penance, Yeo-jin starts going through their address book, offering herself to each client in turn, gratis. Then her father, a cop, finds out with predictably violent and tragic consequences.

Copy picture

This "new" film from the prolific - hence the scare quotes - and controversial Kim Ki-duk can perhaps be most fruitfully read as a development of the prostitution theme of his characteristically disquieting Bad Guy, crossed with the religious/redemptive angle of the hitherto uncharacteristically meditative Buddhist monk drama Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter And Spring.

Unfortunately despite strong performances, confident direction and a careful, non-exploitative approach to the material, Samaritan Girl is a touch too enigmatic for its own good and doesn't quite manage to achieve a satisfactory balance between reality and its transcendence, too many things remaining under-explored and under-explained.

Thus, for example, while Yeo-jin and Jae-young discuss the tale of an Indian prostitute whose attentions caused her clients to devote themselves to Buddhism, we don't see how this "holy whore" myth compares with the contemporary Korean reality; nor does the director successfully manage to bring out the contrasts implicit in the more Christian framework within which he has chosen to situate the story.

Nevertheless, despite this Samaritan Girl is a worthwhile film, representing another step in Ki-duk's evolution away from shock-for-shock-sake towards more substantive concerns. Give him a few years more and I've no doubt he'll produce a masterpiece to rank of Ozu or Bresson.

Reviewed on: 19 Oct 2006
Share this with others on...
Samaritan Girl packshot
Girls turn to prostitution to fund a trip to Europe but find their decision has tragic consequences.
Amazon link

Director: Kim Ki-duk

Writer: Kim Ki-duk

Starring: Han Yeo-reum, Kwak Ji-min, Eol Lee, Kwon Hyun-Min

Year: 2004

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: South Korea


Search database:

If you like this, try:

Bad Guy