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The Housemaid (Hanyeo) (1960)

Director : Kim Ki-Young
Production Company : Korean Literature Films Co., Ltd
Date of Theatrical Release : 1960-11-03
Running Time : 90 min.
Opening Theater : Myeong Bo Theater
Genre : Thriller, Horror

Staff :
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Kim Ki-Yeong
Producer : Kim Ki-Yeong
Executive Producer : Kim Yeong-Cheol
Director of PhotoGraphy : Kim Deok-Jin
Gaffer : Ko Hae-Jin
Music : Han Sang-Ki
Art Director : Park Seok-In
Editor : Kim Ki-Yeong
Sound/Recording : Lee Kyeong-Sun

Cast(Actor/Actress) :
Lee Eun-Sim,Joo Jeung-Nyeo,Kim Jin-Kyu

Synopsis

Dong-sik (Kim Jin-kyu), who teaches music at a textiles factory, shows interest in an article about a murder that occurred in Geumcheon. One day, Dong-sik receives a love letter from a female factory worker named Gwak Seon-yeong. He reports this fact to the factory dormitory supervisor, and Seon-yeong is forced to leave her job. Meanwhile, Seon-yeong's friend Jo Gyeong-hui (Um Aing-ran), who had encouraged her to write the letter, begins frequenting Dong-sik's new house on the pretext of giving piano lessons. When his wife's health begins to decline as a result of over-working herself at the sewing machine to pay for the new house, he asks Gyeong-hui to recommend a good housemaid (Lee Eun-sim). One day, while his pregnant wife is away visiting her family, Gyeong-hui confesses to Dong-sik that she is in love with him, only to be rejected and run out of the house. The housemaid, who had been watching secretly from outside the window, seduces Dong-sik and goes to bed with him. Three months later, the housemaid finds herself pregnant. When Dong-sik's wife discovers this, she convinces the housemaid to induce an abortion by falling down a set of stairs. Once she loses her baby, the housemaid becomes increasingly violent and causes the couple's son Chang-sun (Ahn Sung-ki) to tumble down the stairs to his death. She even threatens to expose the whole sordid affair to the people at the factory. In order to save her home and family, Dong-sik's wife sends her husband upstairs to the housemaid's room. Dong-sik and the maid decide to commit joint suicide by ingesting rat poison, but he leaves her lying at the top of the stairs in the throes of death to die at his wife's side. At this point, the narrative reverts to the opening scene in which Dong-sik is reading the newspaper article with his wife, and the movie ends with Dong-sik addressing the camera and observing that this sort of thing can happen to anyone.

Notes

"A representative film from the middle years of Kim Ki-yeong's career, and the first installment of his Housemaid Trilogy"
The Housemaid demonstrates director Kim Ki-yeong's idiosyncratic style, which continued through such subsequent films as Woman of Fire (Hwanyeo, 1971), Chungnyeo (Chungnyeo, 1972), Woman of Fire 82 (Hwanyeo 82, 1982), and Carnivorous Animal (Yugsigdongmul, 1984). The movie depicts the disintegration of a middle-class family caused by the intrusion of a housemaid and the terror that ensues from this process. By combining cacophonous sound effects with grotesque mise-en-scenes involving a house whose two floors are divided by a central staircase, The Housemaid succeeds in rousing extreme suspense and fear in the viewer. The cinematic interest Kim Ki-yeong would continue to develop in his later works takes its first clear shape in this film. Urban vs. rural landscapes, excessive sexuality and the desire for reproduction, young women who dream of climbing the social ladder, bourgeois families unsettled by class confusion, male anxiety toward women who hold economic power, these are the subjects that constitute Kim Ki-yeong's primary domain. As indicated in the title The Housemaid, which simultaneously signifies class and gender, lower-class women who come to the city from rural communities seek to achieve social advancement by getting pregnant. The working-class woman, alien to the bourgeois family by virtue of her very existence, brings about class confusion and thus poses a very great threat. Moreover, women who have economic independence are represented as being oppressive and dangerous to masculinity. At the same time, Lee Eun-sim, in the role of the eponymous maid, portrays women's sexual desire through monstrous femininity. The scene in which she seduces the paterfamilias as her long hair drips with rain, set against a stormy night and enhanced by sinister lighting, produces the utmost terror.

Afterword:

- Based on actual events that occurred in Geumcheon
- The Housemaid initially had a chronological structure, but director Kim Ki-yeong professed discontent with the film after a screening and inserted the first and last sequences in order to create confusion between truth and fiction.
- Kim Ki-yeong reportedly developed an abiding interest in Freud's psychoanalytic theories while he was working on this film.

Director Bio: Kim Ki-young (1921-1998)

Through his horror movies, The housemaid (Hanyeo) and Chungnyeo (Chungnyeo), director Kim Ki-young created a unique visual world with materials that the limited visual language in films in the 60s dared not approach. After the Korean Independence, Kim Ki-young began making a name for himself through his involvement in the theatre class at Seoul National University. Just after the Korean War, he first began directing propaganda movies for the United States Information Service and made his commercial directorial debut through The Box of Death (Jugeom-ui sangja) (1955). He made realistic movies heavily influenced by the Italian Neo-realists such as The First Snow (Choseol) (1958) and A defiance of teenager (10dae-ui banhang) (1959). But in the 60s, he began making his trademark expressionistic and psychological films which reflected the misanthropic, and destructive desire that came from the modernization of Korean society through the use of surreal sets and lighting.
The first of such films was The housemaid (Hanyeo). Although his movies seem to lack rational and logical reason and though his works cannot be pinned down or easily classified, Kim Ki-young is one of the most significant directors in the history of Korean cinema. Kim Ki-young passed away in a fire in his residence at the age of 77 as he was working on his comeback work.