Having read that it had been described as a Korean take on Deliverance, and after watching the trailer, I decided that it should be disturbing enough for us to feature on the site. Even if it was also described as being a black comedy.
In-Jeong, the main character, is a young student, longing to become an opera singer. In an effort to improve her chances she goes for a short trip with her mentor, Yeong-Sun. And although she’s hoping that the time together will improve her vocal ability, her tutor has other, more lecherous motives.
In-Jeong manages to escape his advances, and his large Mercedes, and runs into the hills. However, there is no salvation, as soon both she and her teacher become involved in a twisted ordeal of games, strange food (?!) and torture, as some local thugs chance upon the remote spot, whilst on their way to torture someone else.
Now, to call this film an ‘unrelenting, deranged nightmare’ as one review did, is a bit much.
There’s tension, there’s confusion and some of it is pretty twisted. But it wasn’t the stuff of nightmares.
At times it gets a bit nasty, and In-Jeong’s feminine vulnerabilities create some uncomfortable moments. But ultimately the thing preventing this film from being truely disturbing is the lack of a villain.
Director Won Shin Yeon takes an interestingly different approach to what could easily have been a standard tale of ‘lost city dwellers being menaced by deranged country folk’. Instead, he produces an unusual set of characters, none of whom really fit into the traditional roles viewers are used to.
The film doesn’t feature an obvious protagonist, or even an anti-hero, and although some of the characters are more vicious than others, it gradually becomes clear that all are victims in one way or another. You even pity the most twisted of the captors when you discover the reasons behind his behaviour.
There were the odd pieces of dark humour, but they seemed few and far between. I put this down to a difference in cultures, and assumed that I was too pre-occupied with the weirdness and random acts of brutality to notice them.
There’s no denying though, that the film had me wincing and feeling anxious throughout. In-Jeong’s situation often seems helpless, and whenever you feel that she is about to escape, something happens to prevent it. Her tutor becomes increasingly detestable, the captors become increasingly wild, and the landscape becomes increasingly desolate and bleak.
I have limited experience of Korean film, but this little taste has definitely encouraged me to explore some more.
If you fancy a film that is a little unusual and that is unpredictable from start to finish, this one’s for you.
Next on my ‘to watch’ list is Won Shin Yeon’s first film, called The Wig which is about ghosts and not hair-pieces…
Additional film information: Guta-yubalja-deul (2006)