Thursday, 14 October 2010


In the first five minutes of Im Sang-Soo’s remake of the home invasion classic The Housemaid, a young woman throws herself off a tall building while much of the city goes about its duties unperturbed. With this shocking opener, it feels as if Im is showing he is prepared to match the bravado of Kim Ki-Young’s original, but rather than just recontextualising the story, he shifts the elements around to make a completely new film. Euny takes on a job assisting an older housemaid working for an extremely rich family, but as she is quickly made aware of her inferior class status, she finds herself vulnerable to the advances of the patriarch, Hoon. What he had anticipated to be a casual affair goes terribly awry when Euny falls pregnant, and the family suffers under a mêlée of secrets and lies.

Im has turned the power structure of the original on its head, perhaps in order to reflect a similar change in Korea’s class divide. Whereas the maid of the earlier film exerts predatorial tendencies over the family, Euny is a tabula rasa for her employers to spoil. Im’s parody of upper-class lifestyles is somewhat overwrought, to the exclusion of much-needed characterisation, but the carefully designed household provides many opportunities for clever theatrical camerawork, often emphasising the hierarchy amongst the characters. Unfortunately, the film soon loses its grip on the viewer as the drama grows more intense, particularly as there is very little of the titular character to grasp onto emotionally.

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