A Tale of Two Sisters
|A Tale of Two Sisters|
Poster for A Tale of Two Sisters
|Revised Romanization||Janghwa, Hongryeon|
|Directed by||Kim Jee-woon|
|Produced by||Oh Jeong-wan
|Written by||Kim Jee-woon|
|Music by||Lee Byung-woo|
|Edited by||Ko Im-pyo|
B.O.M. Film Productions Co.
|Distributed by||Cineclick Asia
Big Blue Film
|Box office||$72,541 (US only)|
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 folktale entitled "Janghwa Hongryeon jeon", which has been adapted to film several times. The plot focuses on two sisters who, after returning home from a psychiatric hospital, experience increasingly disturbing events involving both them and their stepmother.
A Tale of Two Sisters opened to very positive critical review 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.
The movie opens in a mental institution where a teenage girl named Su-mi is being treated for shock and psychosis. She is questioned about the day that led her to be admitted into the mental institution by a doctor and she responds by turning her head away.
Later, Su-mi is seen returning home to her family's secluded estate in the countryside with her father and her younger sister Su-yeon. At a family dinner, their cold and distant stepmother announces that their uncle and his wife will arrive tomorrow night at a dinner party. They are disappointed with her announcement and leave the table. Whilst the family goes to sleep, Su-yeon hears strange noises in her bedroom and goes to Su-mi for protection. However, Su-mi experiences a terrifying nightmare where a female ghost with blood pouring down her legs climbs on top of her bed. After that, all of the females in the family discover that their periods have occurred at the same time.
The next day, Su-mi finds several family photos,which reveal that her father and her stepmother once worked together and the photos also reveal that the stepmother was an in home nurse for her gravely ill biological mother. Su-mi later discovers bruises on her sister's arms and angrily confronts her stepmother about it. At night, their uncle and his wife arrive for the dinner party and the stepmother tells bizarre stories, much to the bewilderment of the other guests in the dinner party. Suddenly, the uncle's wife coughs and has a violent seizure on the floor. Recovering from the seizure, the uncle's wife reveals that she has seen a ghost beneath the kitchen sink during her attack. The stepmother later attempts to search for the ghost and she is suddenly attacked when a disfigured arm pops out of nowhere and grabs her arm tightly.
After finding out that her pet bird has been killed, the stepmother enters Su-yeon's room, only to discover mutilated family photos of her and another dead bed in Su-yeon's bed. She locks Su-yeon in the closet and promises to release her if she apologises. Su-mi eventually arrives to release her sister and she tearfully apologises that she didn't hear her pleas in time and that this would never happen again.
The father blames Su-mi for the trauma the family has been going through since she returned. Su-mi retorts that her stepmother is to blame because she has been attacking Su-yeon. The father tells her twice that Su-yeon is dead but Su-mi refuses to believe him. The next morning, after the father leaves the house to plan to send Su-mi back to the mental institution, the stepmother is seen dragging a large bloodied sack throughout the entire house. She brutally whips the sack and after discovering the trail of blood, Su-mi thinks that Su-yeon is inside and tries to find a knife to open it. Her stepmother catches her and attempts to scald her with boiling water but Su-mi knocks the kettle out from her hands and stabs the stepmother in the hand with a pair of scissors. Su-mi is eventually knocked unconscious by her stepmother.
As Su-mi awakens, her stepmother taunts her about all of the suffering she experienced. Su-mi quietly asks her stepmother to help her. Her stepmother obliges and drags a garden statue so that she could crush Su-mi to death. She is interrupted when the father arrives home and he sees Su-mi unconscious on top of the broken pieces of the statue and he sees a bloody wound on her hand. He takes the stepmother into another room and orders her to sit down whilst he gives her medication. Later, the real stepmother enters the room and the stepmother sitting in the room is shocked, The camera turns 360 degrees to reveal that the stepmother sitting in the room is actually Su-mi herself. It is revealed that Su-mi and her father were the only people in the house the entire time and during that time, Su-mi had acted out the roles of Su-yeon and her stepmother as a result of her multiple personality disorder. Inside the bloodied sack, it is revealed that the sack wasn't actually bloodied but instead, there was a porcelain doll inside which Su-mi used to whip to act out her stepmother hitting her sister Su-yeon.
The father and the real stepmother send Su-mi back to the mental institution and the stepmother attempts to reconcile her relationship with Su-mi but Su-mi rejects her advances. They return home and whilst the stepmother sits alone in the kitchen at night, she hears footsteps racing towards Su-yeon's room. Entering the room, the lights suddenly black out and the door shuts close by itself. The bedroom closet suddenly opens by itself and the stepmother sees a lace that is stuck between two mattresses. Pulling the lace out, a ghost suddenly emerges and the stepmother backs away out of fear. The ghost continues to crawl closer to her and she screams out loud, which could be heard outside from the house, and is presumably killed by the ghost.
Flashbacks reveal the father entering the house with the stepmother after an apparent marriage. The sisters' biological mother, uncle and his wife are also present in the house. The sisters developed a troubled relationship with the stepmother, resulting in Su-yeon leaving the kitchen and going to her bedroom to cry with her gravely ill biological mother. Later, Su-yeon discovers that her biological mother had hung herself in the bedroom closet. Attempting to revive her, Su-yeon accidentally causes the closet to collapse on top of her body, which created a loud crash. The stepmother investigates the source of the loud crash and sees Su-yeon's hand hitting the floor several times. She turns her back against her due to their troubled relationship but she decides to save her but she sees Su-mi arriving at the scene, causing both of them to go into a heated argument which eventually made the stepmother too angry to save Su-yeon.
Before Su-mi stormed off, the stepmother tells her that she would regret this one day. Su-mi exits the house and she sees her stepmother looking coldly at her from the balcony. as Su-yeon eventually dies from being crushed by the weight of the closet. Su-mi continues walking away from the house and is unaware of the tragic events that occurred inside the house, which is the initial event that led her to be institutionalised.
- 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)
|This section does not cite any sources. (February 2008)|
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 nominations
- Nomination - Best Film
- Best Picture
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-yeong). Although originally titled A Tale of Two Sisters like the original film, it was later renamed as The Uninvited.
-  Hancinema. Retrieved 2012-06-04
- "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- "Fantas Through Awards". Fantasporto. Archived from the original on August 27, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- "A Tale of Two Sisters Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- Thomas, Keven (December 17, 2004). "A stylish and creepy Korean 'Tale'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 27, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
- A Tale of Two Sisters at the Internet Movie Database
- A Tale of Two Sisters at the Korean Movie Database
- A Tale of Two Sisters at AllMovie
- A Tale of Two Sisters at Box Office Mojo
- A Tale of Two Sisters at Metacritic
- A Tale of Two Sisters at Rotten Tomatoes
- A Tale of Two Sisters at HanCinema