A Tale of Two Sisters

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A Tale of Two Sisters
A Tale of Two Sisters film.jpg
Poster for A Tale of Two Sisters
Hangul ,
Hanja ,
Revised Romanization Janghwa, Hongryeon
McCune–Reischauer Changhwa, Hongnyŏn
Directed by Kim Jee-woon
Produced by Oh Jeong-wan
Oh Ki-min
Written by Kim Jee-woon
Starring Im Soo-jung
Moon Geun-young
Yum Jung-ah
Kim Kap-soo
Music by Lee Byung-woo
Cinematography Lee Mo-gae
Edited by Ko Im-pyo
B.O.M. Film Productions Co.
Distributed by Cineclick Asia
Big Blue Film
Release dates
  • June 13, 2003 (2003-06-13)
Running time
115 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget $3,700,000[1]
Box office $72,541 (US only)[2]

A Tale of Two Sisters (Hangul장화, 홍련; RRJanghwa, 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.[3] It is both the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first to be screened in American theatres.[4] An American remake titled The Uninvited was released in 2009.


The movie opens in a mental institution where a girl named Su-mi is being treated for shock and psychosis. She is questioned by a doctor who asks if she can speak about the day that led her to being admitted to the hospital.

The next scene shows her returning with her father and younger sister, Su-yeon, to the family's secluded estate. At a tense family dinner, their stepmother announces she has invited the sister's uncle and his wife to dinner the next day. Su-mi tells her stepmother she will not eat with them and the two sisters leave the table. That night, Su-yeon experiences frightening visions, and Su-mi later has a disturbing dream of a ghost in her room.

Su-mi finds several family photos that reveal that their stepmother was once a nurse her father worked with and was also a live-in nurse for the girls' mother. Su-mi discovers bruises on Su-yeon's arm, and angrily confronts her stepmother about it. That night, the sister's uncle and his wife arrive for a visit. The uncle's wife has a violent attack; when she recovers, she tells the uncle that she saw a girl under the kitchen sink. The stepmother also sees this girl and tells the father that ever since the sisters returned home, bizarre things have been happening in the house. Later, the stepmother finds one of her birds dead in its cage. Infuriated, she goes into Su-yeon's room, where she discovers mutilated photos of her, and finds her other bird dead. She throws Su-yeon into the closet and refuses to let her out until she apologizes. Su-mi lets her sister out and comforts her.

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, the stepmother is seen dragging a large bloodied sack through the house. Believing that Su-yeon is inside, Su-mi goes to find a knife to open the bag with. Her stepmother ambushes her and a violent fight ensues. Su-mi stabs her stepmother in the hand with scissors, but is hit by her and falls unconscious.

As Su-mi awakens, her stepmother taunts her. Su-mi quietly asks her stepmother to help her. Her stepmother obliges and goes to kill Su-mi, who looks at peace. The stepmother is interrupted by the sound of the father returning home. He discovers Su-mi unconscious and notices a bloody wound on her hand. He then finds the stepmother in another room, who appears confused and reacts with shock. It is revealed that Su-mi has in fact been alone in the house with her father, and the events that transpired between Su-yeon and the stepmother were merely manifestations of her multiple personalities.

The father and real stepmother take Su-mi back to the hospital. Later, the stepmother hears someone running upstairs in Su-yeon's bedroom. She enters the room, which is extremely cold. A ghost appears, and the stepmother looks terrified as something is approaching her. Her scream is heard off-camera and she is presumably killed by the ghost.

Flashback scenes reveal that the father had come with the stepmother after what was an apparent marriage or engagement. His ex-wife, the uncle and the uncle's wife are also there. Tensions at the dining room table cause Su-mi and Su-yeon to leave. The sisters's real mother comforts Su-yeon, then hangs herself in the closet when Su-yeon goes to sleep. Su-yeon awakens and finds her mother's body. She shakes the lifeless body in an attempt to revive it, and pulls the closet down on top of her, weakly calling for help.

The stepmother discovers the wardrobe, and is startled when she sees Su-yeon's hand underneath, scratching the floor. She does nothing to help her and quickly leaves the room. She changes her mind and attempts to go back, but encounters Su-mi. The two have a heated confrontation as Su-yeon is slowly crushed to death by the weight of the wardrobe. Su-mi leaves the house. For a brief moment, she looks back as though sensing something is wrong, but sees her stepmother and continues her walk, unaware of what has happened.


  • 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)


The film is loosely based on a popular Korean fairy tale "Janghwa Hongryeon jeon" which has been adapted into film versions in 1924, 1936, 1956, 1962, 1972, and 2009.

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 (still mean Rose and Lotus).

Im Soo-jung (Su-mi) originally auditioned for the role of Su-yeon (played by Moon Geun-young).

Kim Jee-woon originally wanted Jun Ji-hyun to play Su-mi, but she refused it because she thought the script was too scary. Ironically, her next film was an unrelated horror film, The Uninvited.


Director Kim Jee-woon.

It is both the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first to be screened in American theatres.[4] With a limited American release starting December 3, 2004, it grossed $72,541.[2] A Tale of Two Sisters garnered very positive reviews, with an 87% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5] Meanwhile, Metacritic scored the film 65 out of 100, meaning "generally favorable reviews" from 19 critics.[6]

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."[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

2003 Sitges Film Festival[8]

  • Nomination - Best Film

2003 Screamfest Horror Film Festival

  • Best Picture

2003 Busan Film Critics Awards

2003 Blue Dragon Film Awards

2003 Korean Film Awards

  • Best New Actress - Im Soo-jung
  • Best Art Direction - Park Hee-jeong
  • Best Sound - Choi Tae-young

2003 Director's Cut Awards

2004 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival

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

2004 Gérardmer Film Festival

  • Grand Prize
  • Prix 13ème Rue
  • Youth Jury Grand Prize

2004 Grand Bell Awards

  • 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Hancinema. Retrieved 2012-06-04
  2. ^ a b "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 27, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Fantas Through Awards". Fantasporto. Archived from the original on August 27, 2009. Retrieved August 27, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b http://media.www.kentnewsnet.com/media/storage/paper867/news/2009/02/03/News/the-Uninvited.Stays.True.To.Typical.Korean.Horror.Films-3610298.shtml
  5. ^ "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 27, 2009. 
  6. ^ "A Tale of Two Sisters Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 27, 2009. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365376/awards

External links[edit]