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After the co-host of a shopping channel TV show loses her job to a younger rival, she enrolls in an intensive yoga course. The very strict trainer informs her students that there will be serious consequences if they do not follow her rules. Written by
Though One Cannot Deny the Film's Creepiness, Yoga Leaves its Viewers with way too many Unanswered Questions
Vanity has a massive role to play in the South Korean horror film Yoga, which accurately encapsulates how physical beauty, in any society, is hailed as one's most prominent feature, which is unfortunately especially true for women, and is reflected in the, almost, all female cast of this feature. The lack of compassion, amidst the competitive tension, reveals how two dimensional the media can be, while additionally demonstrating the self-centered nature some people exude.
Hyo-Jung (Eugene) is lucky enough to be blessed in many aspects of her life, though her lack of any contingencies only adds to the negativity of the situation when her life takes a turn for the worse. While out with friends, she happens upon Seon-Hwa (Rie Young-Zin), whom she used to relentlessly intimidate, when younger, for not exhibiting similar attractive qualities, an aspect of the plot that deserved additional attention to further reveal its emotional depth. The film, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. Losing her occupational position to a younger, more beautiful colleague, Hyo-Jung's dismay only grows when she learns the friend she used to antagonize so much has miraculously changed into an indescribable beauty.
Hyo-Jung's jealousy and spite only inflates her ego, thus causing her to reject boyfriend Dong-Hoon (Daniel Choi), the only person in her life whose affection was unwavering. A man with an avid fascination for old movies, this is well integrated into the plot as he begins to investigate a director he holds much admiration for. This part of the narrative has a direct connection with what Hyo-Jung begins to experience later, this uniquely entertaining back-story containing elements of film-noir, that would make any fan of the genre positively bounce. However, further attention was a requirement to make this particular sub-plot stand out, the film later abandoning the exploration of this segment, the lacking contextualization being very disappointing, especially since its tense introduction was so well executed.
A chance encounter with Seon-Hwa leads Hyo-Jung to be recommended a week long retreat at a strange yoga studio, where one of the lucky few women attending the clinic will be provided absolution in the form of the Kundalini, and in so doing, will be able to retain their youthful gorgeousness. The fact each of the women are impressively attractive exaggerates how each of the characters have been indoctrinated by their peers, and by the media, into believing they no longer retain their beauty, and the lengths some of these women are willing to go to strive for supposed perfection, in itself is quite frightening, though at the same time, honest. Ideologies concerning power, faith and deities are loosely explored during the intensive, and perhaps it is this writer's ignorance on the subject of yoga, but I was unable to discern if this was just developed in regards to the plot, or if this legitimately coincides with the exercises.
While undertaking the yoga intensive, the women are warned against contacting the outside world or disclosing what transpires there to others; consuming food at specific hours; showering or bathing during a one hour period after exercises; or looking at mirrors, the breach of any one of these rules being enforced with harsh penalties. These strict guidelines are handed to them by the beautiful, yet strange yoga master Nani (Cha Soo-Yeon), whose character deserved further explanation as to ascertain her exact place in the supernatural plot.
The consequences for breaching the rules result largely in the disappearances of those responsible, and though we are occasionally shown the ramifications the women are forced to endure, for the most part, they simply disappear, kidnapped by disembodied entities. As the number of women vying for the perfect beauty are gradually reduced, vindictiveness begins to win out in the fiercely competitive climate, as certain characters attempt to fool others into breaking the rules.
Though some of the visuals are capable of disturbing the audience, the drabness of the setting furthering this, these aspects could have been strongly intensified. The most effective production element however is the use of sound: hissing, whispering, snapping - each of these are deeply immersive, continuously heightening the impression of impending danger, while the soundtrack atmospherically adds to the tension, making even the viewer feel as though they themselves are unsafe.
The film's climax is able to abundantly entertain, however the conclusion, which is very interpretative, is unable to resoundingly close the film. Despite blending elements of the thriller and horror genre together, the film rarely, succinctly, contextualizes the narrative of either, and despite the feature's ability to keep the audience guessing, the lacking definitive answers, or resolution, will leave many a viewer irritated.
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