When an orphaned Vietnamese girl is hired to be a housemaid at a haunted rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina, she unexpectedly falls in love with the French landowner and awakens the... See full summary »
This is a remake of the classic "The Housemaid" (aka Hayo). This time it takes place on a chicken farm run by the wife. This gives a new animal horror to add to Kim's trademark rats (see ... See full summary »
In the 60s in Korea, the piano teacher Mr. Kim works in a factory giving music classes to the workers. When he receives a love letter from the student Miss Kwak, he delivers the letter to the supervisor and the worker is suspended for three days. Mr. Kim is a family man, married with two children, the girl Ae-Soon and the boy Chang-Soon, and he has just built and moved to a bigger house of his own. His wife Mrs. Kim also works too much at a sewing machine and they need a housemaid to help her in the housework. Mr. Kim asks Kwak's best friend, Miss Kyung Hee Cho, who is his private student of piano, to help him to find a housemaid. Miss Cho invites an unstable and unbalanced young woman to work for Mr. and Mrs. Kim and she introduces the housemaid to the family. Mr. Kim hires the youth and brings her to the household. But soon she behaves in a strange way, snooping Mr. Kim's private classes until the night that she seduces Mr. Kim and they have intercourse. The housemaid gets pregnant ...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hanyo was the first and the last film Eun-shim Lee, who plays Myung-sook in this film, starred in. The public hated immoral Myung-sook so much that no director hired her after this film. See more »
With the exception of some authentic close-ups, the piano playing, throughout the film, is very poorly mimed; with piano playing and piano teaching such an important part of the plot this seems rather surprising. See more »
A noteworthy film from Korean director Ki-young Kim
Ki-young Kim's "The Housemaid" proved an interesting viewing experience for me, in that it ultimately differed very much from what I had come to expect about a half hour into the film. What we appear to have here is another film like Joseph Losey's "The Servant", which was a left-wing, revolutionary exercise in which a lower class man enters an upper class household as a servant, and ultimately takes over the bourgeois home, throwing it into upheaval and chaos. Likewise, in "The Housemaid", a young woman joins a wealthier household as a maid, and instantly things begin to take a turn toward disorder and familial disintegration. It could easily be a revolutionary, communist film like Losey's. It is not.
In fact, it is the polar opposite. It turns out that "The Housemaid" is actually an overtly conservative film. This film is undebatably a defense of traditional family values like faithfulness, fidelity, and monogamy. Another film with a virtually identical plot could have just as easily been an attack on those same values. In "The Housemaid", however, the character of the maid is not the instrument of revolution, the hand of Marxist justice that has come to wipe out every trace of bourgeois society from our microcosmic household (e.g. Dirk Bogarde's character in "The Servant"); rather, she is the face of temptation, the tantalizer that will be the destruction of a healthy, happy family, should the patriarchal figure fall into that inescapable abyss of adultery.
Some viewers have interpreted the film in other ways, though I don't see how they could. This isn't that kind of film. There really isn't anything ambiguous here. The only exception — the one place where interpretation of the film's message might become a bit convoluted — is the framing device that Kim uses at the film's bookends. I would note the likelihood that this was added for the sake of the censors. After all, it is somewhat surprising that Kim got this film passed in the first place, and the frame story, which abruptly obliterates the reality of the film's central storyline, may have been the only reason he was able to do so. Despite my usual partiality for any kind of narrative complexity or nonlinear structure, I felt this device was mildly detrimental to the film's integrity. Regardless, it really doesn't change anything about the nature of the film's message.
Thematically, the key moment in the film comes fairly early on, immediately after the decisive act of infidelity. Kim goes to great lengths to underline this instant as the pivotal moment in the lives of his characters, a moment from which there will be no return. He achieves this rather heavy-handedly, by cutting away from the room in which the action occurs, to a shot of a large tree standing outside the house, which is immediately struck by lightning, as if to make it abundantly clear, written in Fuller-esque boldface type: This is the moment that changes everything! This is the undoing of a family!
It's not a subtle film, needless to say. There are, however, master touches throughout. The cinematography is certainly impressive, as is Kim's direction. The laterally panning shots through the plate glass on the upper floor of the house are fantastic. It is quite a well shot film, and Kim works inspiringly within the limited space of only a few settings.
Dramatically, however, "The Housemaid" was somewhat disappointing. The film can't decide whether it wants to be a Buñuelian art film or a Hitchcockian thriller, and the resulting blend is very uneven, increasingly as the film progresses. Kim never gives this film any real, constant identity. The score was quite poor. With its obtrusive and highly transparent attempts at creating tension and coercing the viewer into a certain emotion, it never ceased to intrude on the viewing experience.
This may be a political film — it certainly has a plainly conservative message — but if it is, it's not because Kim intended it to be. Despite being pressured by his government to foray into political filmmaking on a few occasions, Kim himself was not particularly interested in politics. He once said, "North or south, capitalist or communist, ideology is far less interesting to me than the things that divide the sexes."
Indeed, this is evident in "The Housemaid". Kim is clearly much more interested in the boundaries and barriers between men and women — the impediments that obstruct the path to intimacy and healthy relationships — than he is in any specific political ideology. And this is where the film regains some of its composure. Comparisons have been made to the work of Luis Buñuel and Shôhei Imamura. I can see it, in terms of its portrayal of passion and conflicted attempts at intimacy between the sexes, but on the whole I think those are pretty loose comparisons. "The Housemaid" works best as a psychological drama. When we analyze the motives of the characters, and what drives each of them toward their respective actions, the film comes into focus fairly nicely. When it tries to move into suspense, however, it looses its momentum as a drama, and as a successful, cohesive work of cinema.
All things considered, I think this is a good film. I can't call it a masterpiece, or even a great film, although I know many feel that way about it, but I do think it's quality cinema that's worth seeing. My biggest complaint with the film is its extreme lack of subtlety, in multiple facets of the art of filmmaking. Dramatically, "The Housemaid" goes way over the top one too many times, and thematically, the film essentially boils down to a cautionary tale about adultery and infidelity. Nonetheless, it's a film that deserves to be seen, especially with the relatively small place that South Korea occupies in the cinematic landscape.
RATING: 7.33 out of 10
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