Thursday, 15 October 2015

BFI Film Festival - Madonna

Thankfully, the South Korean film, Madonna, is not about the American singer. If it had been I would have walked out. Another film, I'm happy to say was directed and written by a female filmmaker, Shin Su-won. Unfortunately, this screening had no Q&A, which can happen, but I was hoping there would be as I would have liked to hear from the maker why she made the film.

Not to lead to any misunderstanding, the film was brilliant but it is a story that I do not wish to see again. Mostly due to a couple of scenes that were too harrowing and in fact the life of 'Madonna' is harrowing.
The story is about hospital worker, nurses' aide, Ms Moon who is put in charge of the Chairman of the hospital in the VIP ward of the hospital. The Chairmain has been left paralyzed and has been in the hospital for years. His son, Mr Kim, stays close by making sure his father stays alive at all costs. When a brain dead youny women who is later to be discovered pregnant, asks Ms Moon to track down a next of kin to sign a organ donation form, we understand that he wants his father alive as he is motivated by money. Ms Moon looks into the life of Jang Mi-na, who resorted to prostitution while pregant. Moon works backwards to when Jang Mi-na was at school where she was bullied by the teacher for having brown hair. Then when she was older and worked at an insurence company where her boss took advantage of her and eventually forced her to quit. Then finally when she worked in a cosmetic factory where she was raped by a co-worker. She attacked him and fled in panic but she was found by him again and again raped by a group of men and left for dead on the roadside. Between the flashbacks we Ms Moon tries to convince Mr Kim to save the girl's baby and also develops, literally, an unspoken bond with the Chairman.
The flashbacks of Jang Mi-na's life is sad and desperate. She's a sweet person but too naive. Her nickname is 'Madonna' because she was a virgin, until she is raped by the co-worker and she never had sex with any clients while a prostitute, but did other things for them. Ms Moon is also an interesting character who we don't really get to know until her flashback is shown near the end of the film. It explains her motivation and need to help this girl, not only because of all the things she hears from others but that she felt she was forced into a desparate situation. Again another scene that was devastating and all it was was a woman crying her eyes out over a suitcase with the added sound effect of a baby crying.
For me, this film was all about story. There were some great shots, the Ms Moon flashback was beautiful and tragic, but this film belonged to the characters, both Jang Mi-na and Ms Moon were superb as victim and would-be detective. I'm still quite disturbed by the some of the scenes but in filmmaking they had a purpose and it had the desired effect. A brilliant film, I think I will seek out Shin Su-won first two films.


  1. Andrew Ellington15 October 2015 at 05:12

    Sounds intriguing!

  2. it is. But there are pretty awful scenes that I don't think I could stomach again.