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Wild At Heart movie review = Housemaid

Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog

Wild At Heart

Here in the US, it is hard to really find Korean cinema but the 1960 film “The Housemaid” by director Kim Kiyoung is considered one of the top 3 Korean films of all time so it only makes sense that someone would try to remake it in a more contemporary setting. The original deals with a middle class composer who hires a housemaid when his wife gets pregnant. So after her hiring, she starts showing erratic behavior and eventually is pregnant with the composer’s baby. Things start to get to the point where lives are at stake. The ending is one of those is wonderful 60’s fashion that states “this is just the sort of thing could happen to anyone”. In the 2010 remake, director Im Sang-soo (famous for the controversial “The President's Last Bang”) tries to recapture what made the original so wonderful.

Like so many remakes, sometimes the setting is what makes something so special. While the original takes place in a middle class setting, Sang-soo decided to set his remake in an upper class family which detracts just a bit from the power of the story. After all, there are many films of how the super rich treat their servants badly (I just watched the Japanese film “In The Realm Of The Senses” which is a more sexual and over-exaggerated version of this type of story but has a similar feel). I think the middle class setting of the original makes this a more interesting story since it is closer to the average person’s life.

That is not to say this film doesn’t have its merits. The remake puts the film more on the housemaid role (played by Jeon Doyeon) as a naive woman who gets the opportunity to put her studies in child development into the practical use as maid/nanny for a wealthy family. We have a senior maid who gives her advice but doesn’t fully warm up to her, the pregnant trophy wife who doesn’t fulfill her husband’s sexual needs, the young female child who the young maid bonds with and the husband with wandering eyes. As expected, the husband makes advances on the housemaid who responds favorably and becomes obsessed with him sexually, eventually getting pregnant and refusing to get an abortion. After being fired, she can’t let go and problems ensue.

The weak part of the film is with the poor character development. Doyeon is a great actress but her character transformation doesn’t seem to follow a logical progression from struggling student to demented housemaid and could use a little more development at the start of the film so we can really get a good grasp of who she is and why she might transform to who she is by film’s end. The film’s secondary characters, esp Yoon Yeo-jeong as the elder maid, are very good and the stylized look of the cinematography is excellent (something the young filmmaker has showcased in his few films so far) but the film really leaves you wanted more.

I would definitely say you are better off with the original 60’s version of the film, but the remake is good enough to let you appreciate what it tries to do. Im Sang-soo is setting himself up, along with Bong Joon-ho (The Host), Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst) and Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron) as one of the Korean film directors that are putting out stylized Korean films that are getting noticed in the West and showing their cinema is just as fresh as Japan and China.

My grade for this film is a C+.