The Housemaid (Sang-soo Im, 2010): South Korea

Reviewed by Nathan Coleman. Viewed at the Mann Chinese Theater, AFI Fest Hollywood.

A Mirovision  production. In Association with Festival Films, Golden Village Pictures, and IFC Films. Directed by Sang-soo Im. Produced by Jason Chae. Screenplay by Sang-soo Im. Based on Ki-young Kim’s 1960 “The Housemaid”. Starring Do-yeon Jeon, Lee Jung-jae, and Seo Woo.

Sang-soo Im’s remake of the 1960 film The Housemaid is an erotic thriller that is not all too thrilling, but that’s not to say it is not both gripping and entertaining. Sang-soo, who is best know for “The President’s Last Bang”, does a fine job behind the camera, directing and twisting the plot in such a way that it is more of an original than a remake. Eun-yi, played by Do-yeon Jeon, is hired as a housemaid for a wealthy and powerful family. She and Byung-sik, the elder old housemaid, spend the day tending to the family. Eun-yi is charged with caring for the Hoon’s daughter, who she obviously adores. Everything appears to be going smoothly until the head of the house, Hoon, takes advantage of his social status and visits Eun-yi‘s bedroom. The affairs become more frequent until Byung-sik discovers that Eun-yi is pregnant with Hoon’s child. She reports this to the mother of Hae-ra, Hoon’s wife. Hae-ra’s mother causes an accident that puts Eun-yi in the hospital, where she then finds out she is pregnant. Hae-ra and her mother decide to try and bribe Eun-yi to abort the baby, but it is to no avail. After their attempts to persuade Eun-yi to have an abortion fail, Hae-ra and her mother decide to resort to more sinister methods, resulting in a sequence of events that leads to dark consequences.

The 2010 remake of “The Housemaid” is a well balanced film that does a fine job of conjoining the icy and devious narrative with the smooth flowing artistic cinematography. The contrast between the opening scene and the rest of the film is dramatically different to highlight the movies theme about the growing separation of the high and low classes. Whereas the market is shot in quick and plain shots, the Hoon‘s residence is filmed with long flowing shots and high contrast colors that almost appears acrobatic. The cinematography is beautiful and really shows the elevated social status of the family.

Sang-soo Im’s a very accomplished work that brings to light the oppression of the lower classes. The narrative is a little difficult to follow through the maze of drama and social status, but Sang-soo Im does a magnificent job handling the camera in such a way that what would rather be a dull thriller remains suspenseful. I enjoyed the movie a lot and, despite having to deal with the subtitles, I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a tense, passionate, and suspenseful thriller.

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