Monday, May 11, 2009

Hansel & Gretel

Watch out for misleading labels! Yim Pil-sung's Hansel & Gretel might be branded as a horror film by your local movie theatre. If you ever decide to watch this gem, the less you know about it, the less you'll have expectations about its horror factor. Besides, the only expectation that you should have is that the film can sometimes be intellectually hard to watch. However, Hansel & Gretel is a fantastic film about the search for love and a very efficient thriller animated by characters that are full of depth.

Eun-soo, a young man, is talking on a cellphone with his wife as he drives on a highway. Afterwards, his car hits a small rock and a car accident occurs. However, Eun-soo (Cheon Jeong-myeong) manages to survive and he walks in the forest in order to find some help. This is where he finds Young-hee (Sim Eun-kyung), a young girl, who leads him deep inside the forest to a house. In that house, Eun-soo is introduced to Man-Bok (Eun Won-jae), Jung-soon (Jin Ji-hee) and the parents.

Besides, Eun-soo decides to stay for one day. However, on the following day, the "parents" decide to leave all the three kids at home for a while and they expect Eun-soo to take care of them. He accepts the responsibility. As time goes by, Eun-soo wants to go back to his wife (and therefore get out of the forest). Unfortunately for him, getting out of the forest is impossible and there's something strange about the three kids.

Although many people identified Hansel & Gretel as a horror film, the film is actually beyond that description. Of course, the film does combine some elements of typical to Asian horror movies: a plot structure similar to what we saw in The Eye and some quick camera works. However, to put it plainly, Hansel & Gretel is more a psychological thriller and also a dark fantasy film. Therefore, the point here is not to be frightened by what we see. In fact, with a wonderful script, director Yim Pil-sung skilfully delivers a film in which nothing is what it is (as Eun-soo will discover it). Besides, with a script that hides many things, one would feel compelled to know the real identity of the three children and understand why they don't want Eun-soo to leave them.

To that matter, the film is a good philosopher, so to speak, dealing with love and individualism. For that matter, Cheon Jeong-myeong has no difficulty play a character who becomes extremely interesting. In fact, at one point, Eun-soo realizes once and for all in his life what it means to get out of one's own bubble and see other people's sadness (i.e. the children's). Therefore, one wonders if he wants to stay with the children who are obviously looking for someone who loves them or just go away. However, with all due respect to Cheon, it's the three actors playing the three children who own the films, which means Sim Eun-kyung, Eun Won-jae and Jin Ji-hee. To my great surprise, the children actors had no difficulty to portray at the same time a children's innocence, resentment for grown-ups and their need for parents. With what we see in the story, the three actors' performance make us hate the children for their weirdness and also feel sorry for them for not having the love they deserve.

Finally, from the beginning to the end, Hansel & Gretel keeps fascinating us. Moreover, the four leading characters are sure going to be put on my list of favourite characters of all time given that they manage to develop themselves by suggesting a lot of things through their lines.

Rating: 4.5/5

Origin:South Korea (2007)
Length:117 minutes
Screenplay:Kim Min-sook and Yim Pil-Sung
Director:Yim Pil-sung
Starring:Cheon Jeong-myeong, Sim Eun-kyung, Eun Won-jae and Jin Ji-hee

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