A Tale of Two Sisters
A Tale of Two Sisters (Hangul: 장화, 홍련; RR: Janghwa, Hongryeon; lit. "Rose Flower, Red Lotus") is a 2003 South Korean psychological horror drama film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon. The film is inspired by a Joseon Dynasty era folktale entitled Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, which has been adapted to film several times. The plot focuses on a recently released patient from a mental institution who returns home with her sister, only to face disturbing events between her stepmother and the ghosts haunting their house- all of which are connected to a dark past in the family's history.
|A Tale of Two Sisters|
Theatrical release poster
|Revised Romanization||Janghwa, Hongryeon|
|Directed by||Kim Jee-woon|
|Written by||Kim Jee-woon|
|Music by||Lee Byung-woo|
|Edited by||Ko Im-pyo|
B.O.M. Film Productions Co.
|Box office||$1 million|
The film opened to very positive reviews from critics and won Best Picture at the 2004 Fantasporto Film Festival. It is both the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first to be screened in American theatres. An American remake titled The Uninvited was released in 2009 to largely negative reviews.
A teenage girl, Su-mi (Im Soo-jung), is being treated for shock and psychosis in a mental institution. She is released and returns home to her family's secluded estate in the countryside with her father (Kim Kap-soo) and younger sister Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), whom she is protective over. The sisters have a cold reunion with their stepmother, Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah).
Eun-joo sleeps beside the sisters' father but he becomes uncomfortable and goes to sleep in the living room. Su-mi experiences a terrifying nightmare where the ghost of her late biological mother climbs on her bed with a broken neck. The next day, Su-mi finds family photos which reveal that Eun-joo was formerly an in-home nurse for her then-terminally ill biological mother. She discovers bruises on her sister's arms and angrily confronts Eun-joo about the abuse. That night, their uncle and his wife arrive for dinner and Eun-joo tells bizarre stories that bewilder them. The uncle's wife suffers a violent seizure and tells her husband that she witnessed the ghost of a young girl beneath the kitchen sink. When Eun-joo is in the kitchen alone, a ghost girl is seen watching her in the background.
After finding her pet bird dead and seeing defaced family photos of herself, Eun-joo locks Su-yeon in the closet. Su-mi releases her hysterical sister and is confronted by their father, who repeatedly begs her to stop acting out. She retorts that he is blind to Eun-joo's abuse against Su-yeon. Her father tells her that Su-yeon is dead but Su-mi refuses to believe it.
The next morning, Eun-joo drags a bloodied sack through the house, whipping it. Su-mi believes that Su-yeon is inside the sack and attempts to open it. Eun-joo and Su-mi get into a violent physical altercation. Su-mi's father arrives to find an injured Su-mi lying unconscious.
It is ultimately revealed that Su-mi and her father were alone in the house the entire time. The characters of Su-yeon and Eun-joo were manifestations of Su-mi's dissociative identity disorder. Throughout the film, Su-mi simultaneously switched personalities, acting as herself and Eun-joo. She hallucinated Su-yeon as a result of not being able to accept her death. In her "Eun-joo" mode, Su-mi imagined scenarios where she impersonates Eun-joo "abusing Su-yeon" but in reality injures herself to act out these situations. The bloodied sack simply contains a porcelain doll.
The father and the real Eun-joo, a much different woman from the imaginary version, send Su-mi back to the mental institution. That night, Eun-joo hears footsteps in Su-yeon's old bedroom. Simultaneously, Su-mi hears a mysterious whistling and recognizes it as Su-yeon, which is in stark contrast to her delusion of Su-yeon, who was unable to whistle. Eun-joo enters the room to investigate and the real ghost of Su-yeon crawls out of the closet. It is implied that Eun-joo is killed by Su-yeon, who finally gets her revenge. Su-mi smiles, appearing to have finally found peace.
Flashbacks reveal the day that led Su-mi to be institutionalized. Her father and Eun-joo, who was still the nurse of Su-mi and Su-yeon's mother at the time, arrive home, engaged to be married. This causes both sisters to become extremely upset. Su-yeon discovers that their real mother hanged herself in Su-yeon's closet, depressed by the engagement. Su-yeon attempts to revive her mother, causing the closet to collapse on top of her and slowly crush her to death. Eun-joo decides to help the dying Su-yeon but encounters Su-mi, who engages in a heated confrontation with her. Angry, Eun-joo decides to leave Su-yeon to die and reminds Su-mi that she'll "regret this moment" as Su-mi leaves the house, unaware of both her sister and her mother's conditions.
- Im Soo-jung as Bae Su-mi
- Moon Geun-young as Bae Su-yeon
- Yum Jung-ah as Heo Eun-joo
- Kim Kap-soo as Bae Moo-hyeon
- Lee Seung-bi as Mi-hee (Eun-joo's sister in law)
- Lee Dae-yeon as Su-mi's doctor
- Park Mi-hyun as Mrs Bae (Moo-hyeon's first wife and Su-mi's and Su-yeon's mother)
- Woo Ki-hong as Sun-kyu (Eun-joo's brother)
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In the original Korean folktale, the sisters' names are Janghwa and Hongryeon (Rose Flower and Red Lotus). In the film, they are Su-mi and Su-yeon (though the names still hold the meaning, Rose and Lotus).
It is both the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first to be screened in American theatres. With a limited American release starting December 3, 2004, it grossed $72,541. A Tale of Two Sisters garnered very positive reviews, with an 87% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Meanwhile, Metacritic scored the film 65 out of 100, meaning "generally favorable reviews" from 19 critics.
Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times described A Tale of Two Sisters as "a triumph of stylish, darkly absurdist horror that even manages to strike a chord of Shakespearean tragedy – and evokes a sense of wonder anew at all the terrible things people do to themselves and each other."
Awards and nominationsEdit
- Nomination - Best Film
- Best Picture
- Best Actress - Im Soo-jung
2003 Korean Film Awards
- Best New Actress - Im Soo-jung
- Best Art Direction - Park Hee-jeong
- Best Sound - Choi Tae-young
- Silver Raven - Yum Jung-ah
2004 Fantasia Festival
- Most Popular Film
2004 Fantasporto Film Festival
- International Fantasy Film Best Actress - Im Soo-jung
- International Fantasy Film Best Director - Kim Jee-woon
- International Fantasy Film Best Film
- Orient Express Section Special Jury Award
- Grand Prize
- Prix 13ème Rue
- Youth Jury Grand Prize
- Nomination - Best Actress - Yum Jung-ah
- Nomination - Best New Actress - Im Soo-jung
- Nomination - Best Cinematography - Lee Mo-gae
- Nomination - Best Art Direction - Cho Geun-hyun
- Nomination - Best Lighting - Oh Seung-chul
- Nomination - Best Costume Design - Ok Su-gyeong
- Nomination - Best Music - Lee Byung-woo
- Nomination - Best Sound - Kim Kyung-taek, Choi Tae-young
DreamWorks announced the two lead actresses on June 28, with Emily Browning as Anna Ivers (Su-mi), and Arielle Kebbel as Alex Ivers (Su-yeon). Although originally titled A Tale of Two Sisters like the original film, it was later renamed as The Uninvited.
- "A Tale of Two Sisters (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 25 June 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
-  Hancinema. Retrieved 2012-06-04
- "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- "Fantas Through Awards". Fantasporto. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- http://media.www.kentnewsnet.com/media/storage/paper867/news/2009/02/03/News/the-Uninvited.Stays.True.To.Typical.Korean.Horror.Films-3610298.shtml[permanent dead link]
- "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 23 July 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- "A Tale of Two Sisters Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- Thomas, Keven (17 December 2004). "A stylish and creepy Korean 'Tale'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2009.