Short Reviews: Bedevilled (2010)


Needing a break from her city life after a series of humiliations and intimidations, Hae-won takes a vacation to the small island community of Moo-do, where her grandfather used to live.

The island, populated by only a handful of people, is home to the beleaguered Bok-Nam, a childhood friend of Hae-won who has been begging her to visit for some time.

Bok-Nam is almost the opposite of the beautiful and successful Hae-won,  aged before her time by years of toiling under an unforgiving sun, and set upon by the lecherous men on the island who misuse and abuse her on a daily basis. Her vicious husband regularly hires a prostitute, and it’s become so common that Bok-Nam merely sits on the porch until they’re done.

Making matters worse are the “aunts” of the island, a band of crones who willingly make themselves second-place to the younger men, and reprimand the independence of Bok-Nam by essentially making her the slave of the island.

Hae-won’s visit brings hope to Bok-Nam, that perhaps she and her young daughter may finally be able to escape the systematic cruelty of the island with Hae-won when she leaves. An attempt is made which results in the death of Bok-Nam’s daughter, and after further cruelty and humiliation dealt to her, Bok-Nam snaps and takes her revenge on those who are responsible for her lifelong torment and her daughter’s death.

Bedevilled is an odd film, but a striking one. Despite the plot, it is not a standard revenge-thriller, but rather a very sad look into the character of Bok-Nam. Rarely has there been a character written who is so completely unable to catch a break. While the film recognises her tragedy and sympathises, it is not a Dancer In The Dark exercise in depressing the viewer with the main character’s circumstances.

Instead, we’re given a film that spends around two-thirds of its running time establishing the reasons that such an act of revenge could be the only way for her to regain any control in her life; unfortunately the opportunity comes when she has nothing else to live for.

This is not a horror film, but a violent drama. The acting is superb – the two leads are captivating throughout, and the horrible men and women of the island are incredibly convincing. While I despised the men and their horrible actions, I don’t think I’ve ever hated a character in a film as much as the head “aunt” for her complete and utter vulgar cruelty to Bok-Nam.

The film is also amazingly shot – my usual description of “amazing cinematography” does not do this justice, and the colour scheme alone is enough to declare this among the most beautiful films I’ve seen, and combined with a unique visual style, it’s fascinating to watch on that basis alone.

This is a very good film. It’s certainly not for everyone, but to those with a strong constitution, I highly recommend it. But be warned – it is a sad movie. Very, very sad.

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