Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (Kim Ji-woon, 2003, South Korea)

Two sisters share a ghostly communion, their emotional transubstantiation a grim portent of secretive abuse and incestuous deeds. Director Kim Ji-woon weaves a mysterious tapestry of familial deceit and psychological trauma interwoven with supernatural dread.
The film begins with Su-Mi being interviewed by a psychiatrist, seemingly withdrawn into a static internal world until awakened by a family photograph. This set-up leads the young woman Su-Mi back to her father and abusive stepmother; her only companion her younger sister Su-Yeong who seems to share a metaphysical bond that transcends the thick congealing blood of family ties. The paternal power structure is upset as the father seems passive and powerless in the face of the maternal malediction, the sisters victims to the dominating and exhaustive rebukes.
Isolated in a small but upscale domicile somewhere in the woods, we begin to experience frightening visions of a restless spirit from Su-Mi’s subjective viewpoint: is her psyche fractured beyond repair…or is a ghostly entity tormenting her? The narrative is told in flashbacks and crosscut with possible hallucinations and it soon becomes difficult to tell fantasy from reality. The troubled daughter seems to have transposed her identity upon the raging step-mother, and the final scenes leave us bewildered and wishing to rewind to discover the subtle clues: such as the timing of her period, the taking of pills, or the bloody sack whose contents remain a violent mystery. The father’s docile nature leads to the possibility of an overbearing guilt, and the allusion of incest hangs in the air like a misspoken curse.
Kim Ji-woon spices the story with a few terrifying sequences as a ghastly figure creeping across the floor that hovers above a traumatized Su-Mi, menstrual blood whispering an accusation onto the bed sheets, or a dark haired spirit crouched under the sink, a forlorn echo that reverberates through the house’s ethereal milieu. The story peregrinates precariously between revelation and unfathomable conundrum, but the answer lies hidden in a pair of empty shoes…and a closet.

Final Cut: (B)