Have your movie going experiences gotten stale? Does a night out in a dark theatre provide less than a thrill for some cheap popcorn? Well, I’ve got a movie that will shock and yank you right out of your cinema slump. The Housemaid, a Korean suspense/thriller by Sang-soo Im, is just the answer to your plight to have a movie really knock you on your ass.
So there I was, sitting alone in the dark of a small theatre of the Plaza Theatre unknowingly waiting for the psychotic ride that was about to start. And after the film, it took me a good ten minutes to get the strength back in my legs to leave. Oddly enough I would describe this film as a mixture of Battleship Potemkin + The Women + some crazy Korean horror!
The film sets quite a tone for itself in the first scene where a young woman throws herself off a balcony in a busy city square. Our protagonist, Eun-yi, the housemaid in question, becomes obsessed and hauntingly visits the chalk outline and blood splatter of the young woman’s body. Foreshadowing much? Try as you might all your assumptions will fall flat in this thriller. If you can even call it that. In my opinion this film defies all labels of genre. Eun-yi, whose sexuality is ambiguous from the start as she canoodles with her female roommate, a cute and chubby fry cook, soon takes on a position as a housemaid in the lavish and polished household of very wealthy and powerful young couple. Eun-yi does her best to befriend the bitter veteran maid, the young precocious child and the spoiled child-wife, while the slimy yet smooth husband does his best to befriend her. An affair quickly starts while the wife is distracted with her imminent delivery of twin boys and already with more babies on the brain.
You may think you know whose side you’re on but part of the true power of the film is that for its majority you cannot root for a single character or “side.” The writing of course is phenomenal in achieving this ambiguous nature of where the viewer’s loyalty lies but the real punching power of the film is the acting. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that didn’t include at least one minor character I could critique, but even down to the four-year-old actress who plays Nami this is one talented cast! Each actors’ performance manages to make you their personal cheerleader, even the witch of a mother-in-law who conniving ways have you saying “What a crazy bitch?!” with admiration.
Is it ever too early to start talking about next years’ Oscars? It isn’t if you’ve seen this piece of cinema gold. I may have to boycott it if this doesn’t get a nod for Best Foreign Film. I’m already dying to do some digging through Korean film archives if this film is any representation of what I’ll find. I’m hooked to say the least.
I do have a big disclaimer to make about this movie though. It is not for the faint at heart. The first half of the film features a few graphic sex scenes followed later by some violent and very disturbing images. But if you’re a cinephile like me buck up, sit back and be ready to not talk about any thing else for at least two days. This is hands down one of the best films I have seen all year and I have no doubt that title will stick till 2012. I give it an A-.