A Tale of Two Sisters
|A Tale of Two Sisters|
|Revised Romanization||Janghwa, Hongryeon|
|Directed by||Kim Jee-woon|
|Written by||Kim Jee-woon|
|Edited by||Ko Im-pyo|
|Music by||Lee Byung-woo|
B.O.M. Film Productions Co.
|Box office||$1 million|
A Tale of Two Sisters (Korean: 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 era folktale entitled Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, which has been adapted to film several times. The plot focuses on a recently released patient from a mental institution who returns home with her sister, only to face disturbing events between her stepmother and the ghosts haunting their house - all of which are connected to a dark past in the family's history.
The film opened to very positive reviews from critics and won Best Picture at the 2004 Fantasporto Film Festival. It is the highest-grossing South Korean horror film and the first South Korean picture to be screened in American theatres. An English-language remake titled The Uninvited was released in 2009 to mixed reviews.
A teenage girl, Su-mi (Im Soo-jung), is being treated for shock and psychosis in a mental institution. She is released and returns home to her family's secluded estate in the countryside with her father (Kim Kap-soo) and younger sister Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), whom she is protective over. The sisters have a cold reunion with their stepmother, Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah), who constantly requires medication.
Su-mi has a nightmare of her late mother's ghost. The next day, she finds family photos which reveal that Eun-joo was formerly an in-home nurse for her then-terminally ill mother. She discovers bruises on her sister's arms and suspects Eun-joo being responsible. Su-mi confronts Eun-joo about the bruises but Eun-joo refuses to apologize for her actions. That night, their uncle and aunt arrive for dinner, and Eun-joo tells bizarre stories that bewilder them. The aunt suddenly suffers a violent seizure and suffocates. After recovering, she tells her husband that she saw the ghost of a dead girl beneath the kitchen sink during her seizure. Eun-joo tries to see what is beneath the sink, but the ghost girl violently grabs her arm.
Eun-joo's relationship with her stepdaughters sours after she finds her pet bird mutilated and killed and her personal photographs defaced. As punishment, she locks Su-yeon in the closet. Su-mi releases her and tells her father about the abuse. Her father begs her to stop acting out and informs her that Su-yeon is dead. Su-mi refuses to believe it as she sees her sister sobbing uncontrollably.
The next morning, Eun-joo drags a bloodied sack through the house, whipping it. Su-mi believes that Su-yeon is inside the sack. Eun-joo and Su-mi get into a violent physical altercation. Su-mi's father arrives to find an unconscious Su-mi.
It is ultimately revealed that Su-mi and her father were alone in the house the entire time. Su-yeon and Eun-joo were merely hallucinatory manifestations of Su-mi's dissociative identity disorder. Throughout the film, Su-mi simultaneously switched personalities, acting as herself and Eun-joo. She hallucinated Su-yeon as a result of not being able to accept her death. In her "Eun-joo" personality, Su-mi tries to sleep with her father as his "wife" and pretends to abuse Su-yeon by injuring herself and putting a porcelain doll in a sack and whipping it. It's also revealed that Su-mi was the one responsible for killing the pet bird.
The father and the real Eun-joo, a somewhat different woman from the imaginary version, send Su-mi back to the mental institution. Eun-joo tries to reconcile with Su-mi, promising to visit her as often as she can, but Su-mi rebuffs her. That night, Eun-joo hears footsteps in Su-yeon's old bedroom, revealing that the ghosts actually existed. Su-yeon's real ghost crawls out of the closet and kills Eun-joo. Meanwhile, Su-mi smiles, appearing to have finally found peace.
Flashbacks reveal the day that led Su-mi to be institutionalized. Whilst her terminally ill mother was still alive, her father engaged in an adulterous affair with Eun-joo, whilst she was still an in-home nurse. This upsets the sisters and drives their mother to hang herself in the closet of Su-yeon's bedroom. Su-yeon attempts to revive her but the closet collapses on top of her, slowly crushing her to death. Eun-joo walks in and considers saving Su-yeon, but she encounters Su-mi, who engages in a heated confrontation with her. Angry at Su-mi's insults, Eun-joo decides to leave Su-yeon to die and tells Su-mi that she'll "regret this moment." Su-mi leaves the house, unaware of both her sister and her mother's fates.
- 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)
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).
A Tale of Two Sisters garnered very positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 85% based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The site's critics' consensus reads: "Restrained but disturbing, A Tale of Two Sisters is a creepily effective, if at times confusing, horror movie." 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
- Best Actress - Im Soo-jung
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 28 June, with Emily Browning as Anna Ivers (Su-mi), and Arielle Kebbel as Alex Ivers (Su-yeon). Although originally titled A Tale of Two Sisters like the original film, it was later renamed as The Uninvited.
- "A Tale of Two Sisters (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 25 June 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
-  Hancinema. Retrieved 2012-06-04
- "A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- "Fantas Through Awards". Fantasporto. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- http://media.www.kentnewsnet.com/media/storage/paper867/news/2009/02/03/News/the-Uninvited.Stays.True.To.Typical.Korean.Horror.Films-3610298.shtml[permanent dead link]
- Elley, Derek (3 July 2003). "A Tale of Two Sisters". Variety. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
- "A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
- "A Tale of Two Sisters Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
- Thomas, Keven (17 December 2004). "A stylish and creepy Korean 'Tale'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2009.