Part of MKC's Revenge Week (July 8-14, 2013). This daily series comes courtesy of Tom Giammarco, the author of the Seen in Jeonju website, surely one of the best resources for information on classic Korean cinema on the web. Enjoy!
This will be the final entry that I have for REVENGE WEEK and I wanted to save the best for last. Yesterday’s theme of having a hitherto unknown family member exacting revenge on a victim touches a little on today’s theme of a stranger in the house.
Home and hearth hold a special place in our hearts. A home is supposed to be a refuge from the work, stress, confusion and peril of the outside world. However, that does not mean that one can stay in isolation within the house. Friends, family and possibly repairmen come and go and domestic staff may need to be hired to handle excessive work around larger homes. These maids or butlers move among and around the family members, always present but outside. Korean films, especially from the sixties and seventies, often contain a maid, a cook or a driver. A week could be spent on the housemaids themselves because they come in such a variety of styles – the comic country bumpkin, the saucy loving type and the sultry seductress. There are also the innocents who fall in love with the family’s eldest son, those mortally in fear of losing their jobs because they are supporting their entire families, and the vengeance-filled lunatics.
Of course, for Revenge Week, I will be looking at one in that final category from the 1960s. She appears in a Kim Kee-duk (I) film from 1966 called The Black Design Scarf. When her child is killed in a hit and run accident, this woman, played by Kim Ji-mi, does a little research and finds the owner of the car. She learns that this wealthy driver is having an affair that she does not wish her husband to know about, hence the reason for speeding. The grieving mother steels her nerves and hides her raw emotions beneath an increasingly cold exterior and manages to get herself hired as a housemaid in the rich woman’s home. The goal she has set for herself is nothing less than killing the murderer’s child.
For a long time she watches and waits for the perfect opportunity but after several missed chances, she realizes that she does not wish to become a killer herself. Breaking down, she confesses everything to her employer and forgives her. The wealthy woman surprisingly does not fire her on the spot but guilt-ridden over her own crime, she kills herself, leaving her child to be raised by the housemaid.
Unfortunately, this movie is lost, existing only as scenarios, advertisements and images so I cannot provide more details…
Wait a minute.. forgiveness? Redemption? Those are not part of a revenge film, are they? Well, yes they are. At any point, in any revenge film, these elements are an option but depending on the genre, we don’t often expect to see them. In the case of Black Design Scarf, the film is a melodrama – and starring Kim Ji-mi, so we could expect a lot of crying. Other films containing revenge-crazed housemaids may be horror or thrillers and thus we can expect a different end.
For housemaid madness, you can’t beat the original. Here is a recently-made trailer for the 1960 classic The Housemaid. C’mon Myoung-ja, you crazy nicotine fiend, show us how revenge is done right!
Finally, I would like to thank Modern Korean Cinema for opening up Revenge Week and for Pierce Conran for inviting me to join. I look forward to any other events MKC may consider hosting!
Reviews and features on Korean film appear regularly on Modern Korean Cinema. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office Update, Korean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time).