April 18, 2008
Jung Brothers - 2007
Epitaph recently was shown as part of the Danger After Dark series at the Philadelphia Film Festival. It is a very ambitious film in that the Jung Brothers are attempting to smarten up the Korean horror film. That is is a ghost story, and that some of the ghosts are reminders of past horror films is in itself nothing new. What makes Epitaph interesting is the narrative structure which is mobius strip that repeats scenes from different perspectives, answering some, but not all questions, about the relationships of the characters in a haunted hospital.
The film takes place almost entirely in a hospital in Japanese occupied Korea, 1942. Starting with the memories of Dr. Park when he was an intern, the film has three main stories that interconnect. Park is seen as a clumsy intern, but a talented sketch artist, who is assigned to morgue duty. It's a creepy enough assignment made more difficult with electricity that is inconstant, with faulty refrigeration and lights that suddenly go out. There are dead bodies, live ghosts, stabbings, brain surgery, snails, and even necrophilia, and yet Epitaph is much less over the top than its description might suggest.
Hopefully someone will do an in-depth interview with the Jung Brothers about their film influences. The violins and violence of Psycho is obvious. There is also a shot that is the reverse of the signature shot from the Thai horror film, Alone. In the earlier film, we see the surviving half of two conjoined twins, walking on the beach, looking back to see two sets of footprints. In Epitaph two married doctors are at the beach, but we see only one set of footprints. There is also a scene involving a snow globe, which may possibly be a deliberate nod to Citizen Kane. It is not simply the use of the globe, but how Kane's shifting narrative may have inspired the Jungs. In addition to the repetition of scenes, the film shifts into memories, dreams, and dreams within dreams.
It is not simply time that is played with, but space. This can be as simple as a young girl stepping into a room filled with white light. One of the more spectacular moments is a scene depicting the evolution of a relationship between the young intern Park and the woman of his dreams. As the camera moves forward, we see the lovers in as newlyweds, and as parents, with screen doors sliding open to reveal each new stage of the relationship, with a corresponding color scheme representing the changing seasons. It's a brief scene, but one that indicates a promise that the Jung Brothers may be among the more interesting young filmmakers in Korean cinema.
Posted by peter at April 18, 2008 12:02 AM
This sounds fascinating and I love the poster. I hope I get the chance to see it soon.
Posted by: Kimberly at April 19, 2008 03:34 PM