Seen in Jeonju

Sleeping Beauty (2007)

12th May 2012

347854The cover of this DVD proudly proclaims Director Lee Han-na as “the female Kim Ki-duk” though I would debate whether that is a good claim to make or not. The early works of Kim Ki-duk are well-crafted, thought-provoking albeit disturbing, stories. However, his later works have, in my opinion, been self-absorbed and lacking fresh ideas.  Which Kim Ki-duk was Lee Han-na channelling?  I am happy to report that the answer is neither. Comparing her to another director is unfair to her and Sleeping Beauty should be judged as a work on its own, not placing it in a shadow of another set of films. I really have no idea why promoters would make the claim of Lee being a female Kim Ki-duk at all..especially in hangul.  They could not possibly think saying that would sell more DVDs… the movies of Mr. Kim is not popular at all here in Korea. Perhaps writing that tag in English would have been more productive as Kim Ki-duk is very well respected in Europe and North America.

Sleeping Beauty is an omnibus tied together with a common thread of incest. Not exactly a topic for light film viewing and probably why the DVD has been sitting on my shelf since I bought it several months ago. It seemed like the kind of film I would have to be in a certain mood to watch. Well, I finally gave it a try today and, while some situations are to watch, the movie is quite good.  It manages to navigate a trecherous road and presents its subject matter without ever appearing lurid. In fact, the most shocking subject matter and situations potentially offensive to the viewing audience happen entirely within our imaginations and not splashed across the screen.  They are set up well so there is no mistake as to what is happening/going to happen, but you see nothing.  In retrospect, I don’t recall there even being any nudity within the film… a fact you would never know by looking at the poster.. The only visual that felt gratuitous and completely unnecessary is a brief two-minute scene introducing the film where a woman pleasures herself in her sleep while her phone rings annoyingly in the background.  I was unimpressed by this and could only think “Cut that out and answer the damn phone!” However, this scene also feels like it was tacked on as it has nothing to do with the common thread in the film and the character involved has nothing to do with any of the three chapters of the movie.

Yes there are three chapters. Sleeping Beauty is an omnibus. The first story is called Cousin about two pre-teens mirroring the past mistakes of their parents. Through the parents’ lives we are able to see what is in store for these two.  I was very impressed by the acting in this part of the film ..especially of the adult characters. Their subtle eye movements and body language speak volumes.. much more than their words say.  The second is called Hibernation in which a struggling farmer takes care of her father who is in the advanced stages of dementia. His single moment (?) of lucidity is shocking and infuriating at the same time with his simple words of “I win” but subsequent events make it useless for the main character to feel the anger for long. This was the hardest of the three segments to watch. Finally, there is Sleeping Princess, the story of a young Chinese girl ‘adopted’ into a Korean family in the countryside when her mother goes to marry a man in Busan. The first night she is made to sleep with her new ‘father’ who is more than twice her age and has a grandson the same age as she. He is abusive and uncarrying, but also dangerously jealous of the growing friendship between the two young people.

I am avoiding writing details about the movie because it is something that you should track down and see for yourself. I was, however, very satisfied at the conclusion. The movie had made me think and evoked an emotional response.. two things I require from a film. The subject matter may be very disturbing, but I strongly recommend Sleeping Beauty for mature viewers.

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