Bedevilled DVD review
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
Rape-revenge in Korea...
Bedevilled is a surprising first feature from Korean director Jang Cheol-so and writer Choi Gwan-Young. Those familiar with Korean films that have achieved widespread success will know to expect brutal bloody scenes but may still find themselves bowled over by Bedevilled's sudden turn of events.
The first half of Bedevilled focuses on Hae-won, a harsh city bank worker in Seoul who coldly refuses to lend an old woman money in order to save her house. Hae-won witnesses a girl being brutally beaten and ignored by passers by but still refuses to identify the girl's attackers in a line up. Arrogant and bitchy to work colleagues, she's told after over-stepping the mark to have a break from work. Visiting the house on isolated Mood-do island she inherited from her grandfather, Hae-won's break ends up being more life-changing than restful.
What at first appeared to be Hae-won's story soon becomes Bok-nam's – Hae-won's devoted childhood friend who still cleans her grandfather's house three times a day, despite Hae-won cruelly ignoring her letters and calls. With the focus unexpectedly moving away from Hae-won, we're suddenly privy to the horrific abuse Bok-nam faces on a daily basis. As the only young woman on the island, she's sexually and physically abused by her husband and his brother, while the elders view her as a stupid whore and worthless slave.
Flashbacks to the two women as childhood friends playing together reveal an unequal relationship even then, and hint that the island boys were just as brutal from a young age. Through these two central characters, Bedevilled comments on sexual inequalities and highlights the contrast between how women are treated and live on the island and the city.
Hae-won and Bok-nam's skin colours symbolise their social standing and although Hae-won has a job, the few scenes we're shown in Seoul depict female abuse and even Hae-won herself admits: “There's a limit to how far a flirt can go in the financial world”. The older females on the island are also constantly complaining they need a man, but all the men on the island are portrayed in an exceedingly negative light.
Aside from social commentary, Bedevilled is a revenge movie at heart. The islanders are such a detestable bunch of characters that it's impossible to feel sorry for them when Bok-nam finally confronts them. Almost as soon as we're shown island life, we see Bok-nam being brutally raped while her attacker repulsively continues to chow down dinner. There are suggestions even Bok-nam's young daughter has been abused and attempts to drug and assault Hae-won are also made. The only other younger female shown is a prostitute summoned from the mainland to provide some variety. It's no surprise really when Bok-nam finally loses it and bizarrely announces: “I stared at the sun long and it spoke to me.”
With some serious over-acting and so much blood that the camera gets a coating, Bedevilled is the story of a woman driven to insanity by the injustice of being a young female in a traditional community full of cold-hearted people. Although somewhat disjointed, Bedevilled is compelling in its strangeness with the occasional hint at humour, making it a promising first film.
Director: Jang Cheol-so
Writer: Choi Gwan-Young
Running Time: 115 mins
Starring: Ji Sung-won, Yeong-hak, Seo Yeong-hee, Min-ho Hwang, Min Je, Lee Ji-eun-i
Bedevilled is released on February 28th 2011
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