A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
Directed & Written by Kim Jee-woon
Music by Byung-woo Lee
Cast: Im Su-jeong, Mun Geun-yeong, Yeom Jeong-ah & Kim Kap-su
2003/115 mins/Color/DTS ES
1.85:1 anamorphic/Korean/Korea/NTSC Region1
Review from the Tartan US DVD
Kim Jee-woon's A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, is a grimm fairy tale that you will have to see for yourself to truely appreciate. The film starts at the end... Su-Mi (superbly played by Im Su-jeong) is in a mental institute where she is about to tell to a pathologist what happened before she had to enter this place...
Su-Mi and her sister, Su-Yeon (Mun Geun-yeong), are back to the house of their father (Kim Kap-su) which is located in the moutains near a lake. Its a creepy and isolated Victorian-Korean mansion. Both seems kinda happy to be back to the house were they grew up but things turns sour when they meet their mother in law, played by Yeom Jeong-ah. The first night they spend sleeping there, Su-Yeon feels the presence of someone in her room, she's too afraid to take a look so she goes deeper into her bed sheets. Strange things are starting to happen in the house, like the birds of the stepmother are found death, a guess has an epileptic attack and sees something (or is it someone?!) under the kitchen sink... and the tension really begins between the stepmother and the two sisters making things all the more confusing for the neglected father.
If you haven't seen the film and want to you should stop reading this review right now as it like impossible to review this film without giving away some vital and important pieces of the story. What first looks like another post RING film turns itself into a demented and confusing world of psychiatric sickness. The audience are forced to reconstruct various time sequences and scenes to figure out which one were real and/or imagined... confused?! Well you should be, this is the kind of film that is worth multiple viewing to find out all the little details that first slipped us by.
The film has three climatic scenes; the first one shows us that some of the characters are not really who they are, the second climax is a creepy and haunting sequence for the character of the stepmothr and that intriguing closet and the third one let us know the origins of the psychological trauma from the main character.
The film is more or less a retelling of a famous Korean story about Janghwa and Hongryun, which tells how two sisters ended up dead because of their stepmother. This is Kim Jee-woon's third film, he previously gave us the brilliant THE QUIET FAMILY and THE FOUL KING. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is a work of art like no other film. Everything in the film is pure magic... or madness. The story is involving and intriguing, the acting is flawless, the set and costumes pure eye candy and the mood and atmosphere gets creepier and more haunting as the minutes goes by. The movie won many prizes around the world like "Best Actress', "Best Director" and "Best Film" at the 2004 International Film Fantasy Festival and the "Grand Jury Prize" at the 2004 Gerardmer Film Festival. Unfortunately an American remake is planned by DreamWorks.
Tartan US edition of A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is available in two edition, first a one-disc R-rated version (now who would want that?!) and a superb two-disc unrated version. The two disc edition is the one i'm reviewing and its pretty much the same thing as the amazing Korean Metro edition I reviewed in 2003. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and it is anamorphic. The image is looks great and features rich and solid reds and blacks that takes us even more within the dark tone of the film. We get three audio tracks, a DTS ES, 5.1 Dolby Digital and a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track. All are crisp and clear giving the film's audio all the atmosphere it needs. The film is in Korean but there is easy to read removable English and Spanish subs. There's a commentary track with the director, lighthing director and cinematographer and another one with the director and cast members... but they are only in Korean. We also get the theatrical trailer, here called "Promotional Footage", which spoils too many elements of the film, so don't watch it before watching the feature.
The second disc is jam packed with extras, first there's a very good 25 minutes behind-the-scenes featurette which features lots of interviews with the director, cast and crew. There's tons of b-t-s footage and a glimpse at how the magnificent musical score was composed. "Production Design" takes a look at how the beautiful but haunting house was created through sketches, paintings and all the small details that went into every room... crazy stuff! "Music Score" is exactly what the title means, a look at how the music was composed, an amazing score I must say. There's also an interview with the composer. "CG Documentary" show us how the computer generated fx were created for the film like for the title sequence, the rooms, the "ghost". Finally "Creating the Poster" takes us behind the photo shoot of the now infamous poster that was banned in Korea from Billboards. It features an interesting interview with the photographer.
We also get 12 deleted scenes, the Korean edition had 15, most of them were completely cut or some were shorten for the final cut. In "Interviews", the director and cast are, well interviewed. There's also a very interesting interview with the director "explaining" the movie, his though on horror, and psychiatrist view of the film. Finally there's a nice still gallery with the superb musical theme playing. Unlike the Korean edition, all the extras here have English subtitles! The movie is separated in 16 chapters, features nicely designed animated menus with music, comes in a keep case but without any inlay card or booklet. This is without a doubt one of the most anticipated genre release in North America for 2005 and Tartan US delivered the goods!
This Film Features:
Review by Kim Dubuisson. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©