Okay, so I saw this Korean interpretation of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale last weekend but I was utterly utterly out of it and couldn't think. So I'm doing the review now. I totally loved this movie. It is flawless, beautiful, tragic, with a happy ending. It hits no false notes. What else can I say? Well, a lot more.
When the story begins, Eun-Su is driving to meet his mother whom has a troubled relationship with. He's about to become a father but there's problem with that issue as well. Poor Eun-Su is a somewhat distanced son about to become a somewhat distanced father. He's just not that connected to family and he almost -- just almost-- doesn't quite know what to do with family.
So he's driving along and has an accident where he bumps his head. When he wakes he finds himself in a forest, utterly lost. A little girl with a lamp -- who carries lamps in modern day Korea? -- leads him to her beautiful gingerbread house where he meets her brother, sickly younger sister, and their two very nervous-looking parents. Everyone is gaily dressed. A lit Christmas tree shines brightly, and dinner is made up of colored and pastel cupcakes and all manner of confections.
The house is beautiful. Ah, the colors and the brightness! I can't remember a film where brightness been used to show both sweetness and horror at the same time. And yet, something is terribly wrong. This story is like Stephen King's Misery meets . . . well Hansel and Gretel. After Eun-Su gets better, he'd like to leave. After all, his girlfriend is having a baby. And he has to see his estranged mom. But he's already caught up in the story of these children. He's become the hero of their tale. And well. . . no one gets out alive. Ah, the love of a child for its parent! Ah, the dangerous love of a needy wounded child for a perfect parent!
The effect all this has on a viewer is to fear innocence, especially wounded innocence. Wounded love can go over the top in its neediness and in its desire to have sweetness and certainly, there's a fascistic sweetness to the children's world. Who can glut themselves everyday on sweets? But that's what a child wants, right? And DEFINITELY what a wounded child wants.
There world is lovely -- a child's version of all that is sweet and happy and good in the world. (A world created from a Christmas postcard and possibly from too many 1960's movies) But the world is also dangerous and the children accepts no challenges to the sweetness they so desperately desires. That a wounded child, a wounded human, could create such a stifling world based on the need to be happy....well, it rings dang true! And yet, one cannot dislike the children. One can, perhaps, dislike an evil dictator although one knows his wounded childhood. But not these children. Their hold is not on all the world. They simply have one corner of the world which they rule with a strong supernatural hand. And woe betide the mom and dad who turn out to be less than loving.
Now, was this all in his head --- a kind of psycho-drama created by the psyche of a wounded child so he could be healed enough to become a loving father? Was it a ghost story? Are the children dead? Was it a story of magic entering the life of a person to bring about healing for the kids and the father-to-be?
I really liked the kids. I thought there was some hint in the last scene that they had found some kind of happiness -- although in the "real world where Eun-su lives" people aren't always good to children. Although in Eun-Su's world children are suffering still without the benefit of magic... at least these three are free. I kinda got that idea. The memory of Eun-su in their life gives was a kind of healing thing for them. Perhaps they'll A) let the next stranger go free if he/she wishes to go or B) have some kind of growth toward understanding their own cruelty. They kept saying they were good children. And perhaps now they will perhaps kinda sorta believe they might also be doing evil as well. We can only help those we know...and unfortunately so much suffering is done behind doors so we don't really know.
I believe that life is complex for us humans. I believe in Perfect goodness and perfect evil -- but not among the human denizens of earth. Humanity must be judged on the gray scale
I'd like to believe that I've gone through life without harming anyone. I'm sure I haven't though...even though "I am a good person" as the kids would say. I have my guesses about moments when I've been cruel but I know I shall be unpleasantly surprised one day to discover I've hurt or wounded someone I didn't know. I like thinking I know these things. ;-)
Anyway, here's the link to the movie. And here is a description of the film, along with some other wonderfully sorrowful films about kids. The vid was made by my cinematic brother, James in the UK. We argue passionately about films but the love and respect is always there.