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Kim Bok-nam Salinsageonui Jeonmal

Bedevilled

South Korea 2010
produced by
Park Kuy-Young, Han Man-taek (executive), Hyun Jung (executive), Harry H.W. King (executive)
directed by Jang Cheol-so
starring Ji Sung-won, Seo Yeong-hie, Hwang Min-Ho, Je Min, Lee Ji-eun-i, Park Jeong-hak
written by Choi Gwan-young

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Hae-won (Ji Sung-won), a selfish banker, needs a time-out after being made a witness in a rape case she wants to have nothing to do with. So she takes a trip back to the island she grew up with to hook up with her best friend from yesteryear, Bok-nam (Seo Yeong-hie). However, life on the island has taken a turn for the worse, it headcount is down to nine, and while all the women are cultivating the field like slaves, lorded over by the (female) village head who also makes the law, the two men enjoy the good life and are only asked to fix things from time to time.

It seems Bok-nam got the most rotten deal of them all: She was gangraped but forced to have her kid, a daughter, Yeon-hee, whom she now loves more than life. But she is suppressed by her husband Man-jong, who treats Bok-nam like dirt, invites hookers over to the island to have sex with them before her eyes, and he might have more than merely fatherly feelings for Yeon-hee. Bok-nam asks Hae-won to take her and Yeon-hee with her to the mainland, to Seoul, but Hae-won refuses using some rather lame excuses. In her desperation, Bok-nam calls a hooker of her husband's who actually tried to make friends with her despite everything, and the hooker actually comes to fetch her and Yeon-hee to take them to Seoul - but while Bok-nam wanted to escape in secret, someone must have alerted the whole village, and everybody wants to prevent Bok-nam from going, and in the fight that erupts, Man-jong kills Yeon-hee ... but when an official comes for an inquiry into the situation later on, everybody clams the girl died in an accident, and they even partly blame Bok-nam. And to put an end to her ambitions of individuality, she is forced to work all day the very next day - which is when Bok-nam erupts and kills everyone on the island in more and more violent ways. Only Hae-won somehow manages to escape - Hae-won who's at least as guilty as all the others, because she was a secret witness to the murder of Yeon-hee and she could have testified against the islanders - and her testimonial would have been more valid than all the others since she is not part of the island community ... she simply didn't help her friend out of selfishness.

Back on the mainland, Hae-won is arrested because she's found on a boat that is not hers and that shows traces of blood - but later that night, Bok-nam breaks into the precinct Hae-won is held at, kills everyone in sight and threatens Hae-won, who only eventually manages to kill her in self defense.

It's only now that Hae-won starts to realize everything that has been wrong about selfish ways, and finally she testifies in the rape case from the beginning of the movie, even if she almost gets killed for doing so ...

 

At times, Bedevilled is quite a suspenseful, violent and atmospheric film - but all of this polish and all of its shocking content can't really iron out the story's narrative shortcomings: the whole island-situation and especially Bok-nam's hardships are portrayed in a way too crude and blunt way to really work, Hae-won, one of the film's main characters, remains a rather empty shell throughout, character-wise, and especially her spiritual vindication at the end of the film comes across as heavy-handed as can be, and the whole story follows a gangrape case on Pitcairn Islands (you know, the islands from Mutiny on the Bounty) that was revealed back in 2004 a bit too closely and unimaginatively to really qualify as an original story. Also, the finale seems rather pulpy when compared to what has previously been built up, and the whole thing could have done with half an hour less running time (it takes almost two hours to tell not all that much of a story).

All that said, Bedevilled certainly has its moments, but it's by no means a perfect movie.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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