A TALE OF TWO SISTERS
Review by Ed Nguyen
Im Soo-Jung, Yeom Jeong-A, Moon Geun-Young, Kim Kab-Su
Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Audio: Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Surround 5.1, or DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Two commentaries, trailer, Easter egg
Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: March 29, 2005
the girls came home, weird things have been happening in this house."
there were two sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon, innocent in their youth and devoutly
faithful to one another. Su-mi was
the older girl, named for the rose, delicate if ephemeral in grace and beauty.
Her younger sister Su-yeon was named for the lotus, quiet in pensive
serenity. Su-mi enjoyed the
unconditional adoration of her younger sister who, unmindful of the general
belief that siblings of like years must quarrel, was truly amorous of her older
sisters lived in a pleasantly rustic cottage.
Their home was situated upon a mild summit that commanded an impressive
view of the pastoral lowlands below. From
this idyllic abode, surrounded by fields and meadows, the sisters basked in the
perpetually clear skies that graced their days of summer.
Su-mi and Su-yeon contentedly played outdoors as frequently as possible,
sometimes swaying lazily upon their swings, and sometimes, weather permitting,
wandering the adjacent copses and small shaded lanes.
Hand in hand they would roam, laughing over some trivial secret whose
importance only the clarity of youth could ever elucidate.
the day was warm, the sisters might be found by the banks of a nearby pond,
where the waters softly lapping upon the shores whispered beseechingly to the
sisters. Frequently on such days,
the sisters might settle upon the jetty that inconspicuously yawned and
stretched into the pond. From
there, the sisters could lean back, casually luxuriating in the caress of
sunlight upon their faces.
were happy days, but as with all things, eventually such days must draw to their
end. For Su-mi and Su-yeon, the
abruptness with which the solemn gravity of heartbreak descended upon their
lives was as unforeseen and cruel as though a sudden crushing weight had landed
upon their chests. One terrible
day, a tragedy befell the girls' family, shattering their childhood tranquility,
and in consequence the girls were forced to leave for a very long time, removed
from the home they had grown to love.
the passage of time, resplendent days dissolved into disquieting night, summer
for crestfallen autumn transformed, the children eventually found release from
their blighted convalescence. Older,
sadder, and perhaps wiser, they returned to a dark and foreboding home not yet
at rest. As the dusk of their days
arrived with insidious precipitance, so too did the haunts of unfading
bereavement and guilt. Shadows
manifested themselves, and coldness beckoned where warmth once lingered.
The echoing patter of fallen footsteps upon the wooden floors, a mournful
lament in the dark, doors moving of their own accord, shifting silhouettes in
the dark where no man or woman lurked - such nebulous apparitions of the senses
and mind engirdled the very sanctity of the girls' treasured remembrances of
their former home. What manner of supernatural prejudice, real or imagined,
pursued the girls? What awakened horror was astir in this once cheerful home?
girls' father, languorous in love, was strangely oblivious to his daughters'
distress. Their step-mother, a
young and flighty thing, did little in her perfunctory pantomime of friendship
to merit sincere acceptance. She
merely ascribed the sisters' sepulchral mindset to simple insubordination, and
as step-mothers are wont to do, subsequently denied the sisters even a facsimile
of parental warmth.
the sisters simply withdrew further in themselves every passing day.
Encumbered by fatuous memories of times past, tormented by an ensanguine
family setting, and pursued in shadows by dolorific visions, Su-mi and Su-yeon
slowly succumbed to a perceived doom that surely awaited them.
Their fates were tied, not just to one another but to a past, unresolved
and ill-at-ease, destined forevermore to rend the illusory complacency of those
living who had engendered it into existence.
was their tale, a tale of two sisters, charmed in youth, haunted in childhood's
Tale of Two Sisters
was loosely based on Janghwa
Heungryeonjeon, a Joseon Dynasty traditional folk tale.
The film's Korean title was Janghwa,
Hongryeon, literally "The Story of Rose and Red Lotus."
Yet in its narrative could be discerned the vestiges of such like-minded
ghostly stories as Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" or Shirley
Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" or even Daphne Du Maurier's
ghost story, part tragedy, A Tale of Two
Sisters is a film at the forefront of contemporary Asian horror.
It is a film that recognizes that more than any amount of screen blood,
the true terror capable of a psychologically scarring impact festers within the
subconscious mind, young or old, healthy or dying.
Tale of Two Sisters
is shown in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen format.
Although mildly pixelated, the video quality does manifest good depth of
colors with sharp image delineation even in the numerous darker scenes.
Korean audio options are for Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Surround 5.1, or DTS 5.1.
As with any horror film, A Tale of
Two Sisters relies to some degree on aural ambiance to create or enhance its
spookier moments. So, the better
your audio system is, the better your watching experience will be!
Not surprisingly, the DTS track is the best one and really immerses
listeners into the dark and disturbing world of the sisters of this film.
forewarned! Watch A Tale of Two Sisters before checking out any of the bonus features.
from the theatrical trailer, this disc contains two commentary tracks.
The first is with director Kim Jee-Woon, cinematographer Lee Mo-gae, and
lighting director Seung-chul O. Their
comments focus primarily on framing and composition, shooting angles, and
lighting design. The casual
listener who prefers a less technical commentary should instead opt for the
second commentary, again with director Kim Jee-Woon but this time with his
film's two young stars, Im Soo-Jung and Yeom Jeong-A.
Kim's insightful comments reveal some of the symbolism in the film,
whereas the two girls are shy and more predisposed to giggling, not
surprisingly. Still, this is a
fairly relaxed and honest commentary and, as director Kim states himself, not as
"stuffy" as the first commentary.
The girls are none too shy to directly contradict their director's
there is a haunting little Easter egg! Go
to the "options" menu, highlight the "main menu" tab at the
bottom, then push the right arrow. Korean
characters will appear! Click on
them for a bonus featurette (5 min.) in the form of a letter read by Su-mi for
her sister Su-yeon. Images from the
film, including still photographs and out-takes, accompany this lyrical and
poignant recitation which is best experienced after seeing the film first.
As far as Easter eggs go, this is an extremely good one which actually
enhances the tragic elements of the film's story; it should really be considered
the film's epilogue.
A two-DVD release edition of the film features all the contents of this
disc as well as a second disc offering further featurettes, deleted scenes,
galleries, and another Easter egg.