Opening 11 Jan 2007
Geum-ja (Lee Young-Ae) goes to prison for 13 years for murdering a five-year-old boy. She is innocent, but confesses to the crime to save her own child. In prison she is a real Mother Theresa who helps her fellow inmates, even reverting to drastic methods such as slowly poisoning a fiend or donating a kidney. She becomes an expert prison baker and is a shining example of remorse and sainthood: the church’s own cover girl. Upon her release she sheds this saintly façade and visits her former fellow convicts, as well as the prison baker, who now owe her, big time. She engages their help in a long-planned, detailed revenge against her former kindergarten teacher Mr. Baek (Choi Sihn-Mik) who is the real culprit.
Korean director Park Chan-Wook calls this Part III in a trilogy which consists of Sympathy for Mr. Vengenace and Oldboy (which won first prize in Cannes 2004). Lee is a beautiful Korean actress who carries the film. Just the expression on her face immediately upon her release from prison tells volumes. Choi (who was the lead in Oldboy) is equally expert in his role as a man who teaches small children by day and kidnaps and murders them after hours. Some scenes did not seem to be related to the plot, although you might have no problem with this. Sometimes I thought that perhaps I am missing some Korean symbolism which would heighten my appreciation or a flashback didn’t quite jell. The photography and camera work (Chung Cung-Hoon) is excellent. For more of Park see his newest film I am a Cyborg but that’s OK which is in competition at the 2007 Berlinale. (Becky Tan)