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After witnessing a family member thrown of a balcony by her fiance on her wedding day and the violent stabbing of her aunt, a young woman comes to realize she may be next in line. She desperately tries to find out why those around her turn on her and why she seems marked for death. Who can she trust - where can she turn for help when it seems everyone is out to get her. If only she can survive the murderous rage of friends and even her own family long enough to uncover the secret. Written by
When Ga-in is scanning the wall of the old man's home with the newspaper clippings and pictures, she reads a headline that says: "Argument with wife, father kills all four children." The bug-eyed image to the right of this is Goya's painting "Cronus Devouring One Of His Sons"; Greco-Roman mythology states that the titan Cronos/Saturn was told one of his sons would overthrow him as he overthrew his own father, so to prevent this, he devoured them all - reflecting the movie's theme of envy-provoked murders. See more »
Watching "Voices," a subtitled South Korean import, I kept asking myself: When will this movie be remade in America? It's not that I want it to be remade. It's just that, with the recent releases of "The Ring," "The Grudge," "The Eye," "Mirrors," "Shutter," and "One Missed Call" ... well, you just know it's going to happen sooner or later. When it does happen, I can only hope that American filmmakers will be able to make something out of the plot. Yes, this movie does have a plot, but God help me, I have no idea how I can describe it to you; it's one of those films that seems to intentionally forgo any degree of clarity, the story shifting gradually from vague to incomprehensible. I watched the bloody murder scenes and I read the subtitles and I studied the characters as best I could, but somehow, absolutely nothing was clicking.
Now, I realize I may be at a serious disadvantage. It is, after all, a foreign language film, so it was most likely made with a very different audience in mind. Maybe there are cultural considerations I'm not aware of. In my review of "Slumdog Millionaire," I noted that the main character's sense of optimism seemed unlikely given his terrible circumstances; readers were shocked at my ignorance, and a few even took the time to inform me that I was looking at this film from a very Western perspective, that even the most downtrodden in Mumbai survive only because they find something to live for. So it's quite possible that I'm looking at "Voices" from a very Western perspective. I may in fact lack the cultural understanding required to make sense of the story, which turns back on itself so many times that it eventually seemed less like a plot and more like a frightening dreamscape.
The original Korean title is "Du Saram-Yida," which literally translates as "Someone Behind You." This does accurately describe the sense of paranoia and uncertainty permeating the story. Paranoia is often times baseless and irrational, much like the story, in which a teenage fencing champion named Ga-in (Jin-seo Yun) finds herself at the mercy of an unstoppable and unexplainable death curse. At least, I think it's a curse. It seems that everyone around her wants someone else to die, and in a fit of rage, they act on it: one of Ga-in's aunts is pushed off a balcony on her wedding day, and as she recovers in the hospital, another aunt violently stabs her to death; one of Ga-in's classmates, a perfect student in all respects, becomes so jealous that she tries to stab Ga-in in the nurse's office; at a certain point, Ga-in's mother starts wielding a knife, screaming, "Die! Die! Die!" as her husband tries to subdue her.
So then some supernatural force has been unleashed on Ga-in's family. Or has it? All throughout, a reclusive, sunken-eyed teenage boy named Seok-min (Ki-woong Park) keeps appearing to give her this ominous piece of advice: "Don't trust anyone. Not your friends, not your family, not even yourself." This may or may not have something to do with a bad thing that happened to him as a boy, which may or may not have something to do with the film's ending, at which point any remaining thread of plot cohesion is cut away. Watching those final scenes is like watching a demo reel of murders and surrealistic images and plot twists all edited together. It's a meaningless jumble of moments that wanted to reveal something without actually revealing it. To say I had no idea what was going on would be like saying that the surface of the sun is warm.
The most maddening thing is that characters are constantly offering some kind of vague reason for what's happening. They keep talking, yet somehow they're not really saying anything. They certainly aren't saying anything understandable. How strange that a movie in dire need of clarity could have done with a lot less explanation. There's a point at which Ga-in travels outside the city to see an elderly recluse who killed his wife in a fit of rage decades earlier. Despite the fact that his scenes are annoyingly light on specifics, at least they hinted that the rest of the film would follow some kind of narrative logic. But then comes the ending. Dear God, the ending--a bleak, nonsensical muddle that reverses pretty much everything I thought I knew about the plot.
This is one of the most frustrating experiences I've had in a long time. Rarely has a film worked so hard at being a confusing mess. Let it be known that I went into "Voices" with an open mind, and for the first forty-five minutes or so, I really did try my hardest to make sense of it. But at a certain point, it was obvious that there wasn't much to make sense of, and I threw in the towel. Yes, it's a frightening movie, full of gory death scenes and surprise scares and quiet moments that build tension. But when story is neglected in favor of atmosphere, you have nothing more than a thrill-a-minute funhouse ride. If I had wanted that, I would have gone to a carnival. American filmmakers will have their work cut out for them once they latch onto this screenplay and begin reworking it. Don't think it won't happen somewhere down the line.
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