Writer/director Im Sang-soo offers up a modern revision here of Kim Ki-young’s dark 1960 thriller of the same name. Here, a young woman called Eun-yi (Jeon Do-yeon) takes on the role of housemaid and nanny to a young über-rich family. Before long, though, she is involved in an affair with the husband and all hell breaks lose once the women of the house come to discover this. So far, so terribly formulaic. However, it is in the delivery that this incredibly black piece of comedy writing shines. Like so many modern Korean films, the director continuously changes the point of attack. Hence, what starts out as being po-faced social realism turns into a brutish view of male chauvinism before becoming about the complex inter-relationships between four women and a little girl. Throughout it all, then, the glossy cinematography, the excellent use of music, and many minor comic moments (typically involving Yun Yeo-Jong as the other house servant Miss Cho) make this a curious mix of the horrific, the heart-rending, and the hilarious.
Indeed, throughout this film, Mr. Im paints a terribly bleak and uncaring portrait of society – one that is not limited to any one economic class or gender of person either. In a prologue scene, a woman falls to her death on a street teeming with all manner of night-life. Some rubber-necking apart, though, hardly anyone seems to be affected by what they have just witnessed. This deep apathy towards others then continues to set the tone for Eun-yi’s time in the house. Portraying the rich in this manner does not break any genre-boundaries, for sure. However, the added dimension here is that there is seemingly no point in anyone being weak or caring in this world. As the long-suffering Miss Cho explains, on one occasion, to Eun-yi, you have to put up with a lot of hardship, but at least this family compensates one well for their excesses. Yes, such an attitude is born of a neo-liberal society at its ugliest. However, this is precisely the effect that the director is looking for here. (more…)