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(Movie Review) Witty, unique yet knotty, 'My House' aims at a new film genre

All Headlines 09:57 April 01, 2009

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By Shin Hae-in

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- Despite its passive nuance, loving in vain isn't always about waiting, crying and begging. Some people choose to be much more aggressive -- enough to abandon their own home, invade someone else's and lock its owner inside.

It would be fair to say "What Brings You to My House?" (Urijibe wae watni) is a strange movie: both in terms of its subject matter and its structure.

The film opens on a comical note with two complete strangers -- a homeless girl and a man whose suicide attempts are a chronic failure -- sharing a room together. But it slowly delves into the very meaning of love and wrenches tears from its audience by the time the credits roll.

Su-gang (Kang Hye-jeong) is a homeless 20-something who abandons her house in the countryside and comes to Seoul in search of her first love, who is desperate to forget her.

Hoping to get a better window-view of her love's room, Su-gang barges into the house of Byeong-hee (Park Hee-soon), saving him just in time as he is about to hang himself, and detains him.

With his own heart battered by the death of his wife and growing suspicions that she was unfaithful, Byeong-hee feels bizarrely comforted by Su-gang's presence -- despite her unbearable body odor -- and warms to the idea of being her prisoner.

As the camera follows the unlikely couple's subtle movements and expressions, the queerness of the situation becomes less stark and it becomes easier to relate to these characters' painful emotions.

While sharing their stories, Su-gang and Byeong-hee form a tight bond as "failures in love." But "…My House" demurs the typical romantic movie format as the two go their separate ways.

"Old Boy" heroine Kang Hye-jeong said she chose this knotty film as her 10th feature, hoping to "expand the realms" of her character.

The 27-year-old is considered one of Korea's best actresses not only for her superb talent but also for her ambition to pursue different characters with each new undertaking.

"I wrote the script with Kang in mind from the very beginning," director Hwang Soo-ah said at a preview Tuesday. "This is a complex film with a lot to think about, but most of all, I wanted it to be a present to audiences -- containing Kang."

The New York University-educated director debuted with her short film "Decalcomania" in 2001, which was applauded by the jury of the Seoul Independent Film Festival that year for its subtle depiction of emotions and refined cinematography.

One thing is for sure: the director knows heartache.

Tired of her longstanding unrequited love, Su-gang is ready to hurt her first love -- literally. Persuading her to change her mind, Byeong-hee talks about "hope," what appears to be this abstruse film's motif.

"Yes, we failed. I will probably never love anyone again and you will never be loved by anyone. But look at him. He's still so young. He has hope," he tells the aching girl.

"…My House," with a running time of 105 minutes, will hit local theaters April 9. Its distributors have yet to finalize the English title of the movie.


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