The Housemaid (1960 film)

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The Housemaid
Housemaid 1960 Poster.jpg
Theatrical poster to The Housemaid (1960)
Revised Romanization Hanyeo
McCune–Reischauer Hanyŏ
Directed by Kim Ki-young[1]
Produced by Kim Ki-young
Written by Kim Ki-young
Starring Kim Jin-kyu
Lee Eun-shim
Ju Jeung-ryu
Um Aing-ran
Music by Han Sang-gi
Cinematography Kim Deok-jin
Edited by Kim Ki-young
Distributed by Kuk Dong
Seki Trading Co.
Release dates
  • November 3, 1960 (1960-11-03)
Running time
108 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean

The Housemaid (하녀, Hanyeo) is a 1960 black-and-white Korean film. It was directed by Kim Ki-young and starred Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo and Kim Jin-kyu. It has been described in as a "consensus pick as one of the top three Korean films of all time".[2] This was the first film in Kim's Housemaid trilogy followed by Woman of Fire. The film was remade in 2010 by director Im Sang-soo.


The film is a domestic horror thriller telling of a family's destruction by the introduction of a sexually predatory femme fatale into the household. A composer, Dong-sik Kim has just moved into a two-story house with his wife and two children. When his pregnant wife becomes exhausted from working at a sewing machine to support the family, the composer hires a housemaid, Myung-sook to help with the work around the house. The new housemaid behaves strangely, catching rats with her hands, spying on the composer, seducing him and eventually becoming pregnant by him.

The composer's wife convinces the housemaid to induce a miscarriage by falling down a flight of stairs. After this incident, the housemaid's behavior becomes increasingly more erratic. She tricks the composer's son Chang-soon into believing that he has ingested poisoned water and in a panic he falls to his death down a flight of stairs. She threatens to kill the composer's newborn son, and actually does kill the composer's crippled daughter Ae-soon by force-feeding her poisoned rice. Myung-sook persuades the composer to commit suicide with her by swallowing rat poison.

The film ends with the composer reading the story from a newspaper with his wife. The narrative of the film has apparently been told by the composer, who then all smiles warns the film audience that this is just the sort of thing could happen to anyone.


Critical appraisal[edit]

In 2003, Jean-Michel Frodon, editor-in-chief of Cahiers du cinéma, wrote that the discovery of The Housemaid by the West, over forty years after the film's debut, was a "marvelous feeling—marvelous not just because one finds in writer-director Kim Ki-young a truly extraordinary image maker, but in his film such an utterly unpredictable work".

Comparing the director to Luis Buñuel, Frodon wrote Kim is "capable of probing deep into the human mind, its desires and impulses, while paying sarcastic attention to the details". He called The Housemaid "shocking", noting that "the shocking nature of the film is both disturbing and pleasurable". Frodon pointed out that The Housemaid was only one early major film in the director's career, and that Kim Ki-young would continue "running wild through obsessions and rebellion" with his films for decades to come.[3]


  1. ^ Infobox data from Frodon, Jean-Michel (2003). "Hanyeo (1960) The Housemaid". In Steven Jay Schneider. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. New York: Barron's Educational Series. p. 385. ISBN 0-7641-5701-9. 
  2. ^ Paquet, Darcy (2006-08-09). "Darcy's Korean Film Page - 1960s". Retrieved 2007-05-08. 
  3. ^ Frodon, Jean-Michel (2003). "Hayno (1960) The Housemaid". In Steven Jay Schneider. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. New York: Barron's Educational Series. p. 385. ISBN 0-7641-5701-9. 


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