Beautiful (아름답다)

((summary by me))

아름답다 / Arumdabda

Everyone wants to be beautiful, don't they?

Some go to extremes with unhealthy diets and plastic surgery; others worship and emulate models, read beauty and fashion magazines, and spend money at salons in order to be beautiful. Yet few really consider the darker side of such an obsession. Sometimes beauty isn't as wonderful as it's made out to be... and it doesn't always lead to 'happily ever after'.

Jeon Jae-Hong explores this darker concept of beauty in his feature film debut, Beautiful (Kim Ki-Duk wrote the original story and produced). Instead of showing us a woman striving for beauty, we're shown a protagonist who is already the epitome of what many women wish to become. Eun Young is a natural beauty: Young girls look up to her, men desire her, woman wish to be her. She seems to lack nothing, and is admired by many.

But as Eun Young discovers... beauty has its price.

Cast: Cha Su-Yeon, Lee Chun-Hee
Directed by: Jeon Jae-Hong
Warning: this movie contains disturbing images, nudity, and violence. So don't say I didn't warn you!!


My Rating:


What I really liked about his movie was that it's easy to watch and understand (which is definitely to Jeon's credit). The plot is straight-forward and is missing some of the ambiguity and surrealism I've come to expect from many of Kim Ki-Duk's work--and in this case, that's not a bad thing. The concept of beauty is already an abstract idea at best. Here, he breaks it down to its simplest form by touching upon a subject people are already familiar with, albeit in a disturbingly, realistic way. We aren't often shown the ugly side of beautiful people: the loneliness that comes with it, the pressure, the danger, the uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt.

Jeon uses a lot of clever visuals that touch upon this theme in one way or another: the cop's beautiful fish he keeps in jars, the blood-splattered painting, everyone's reaction to the stalker's video, the flower (tulip?), the perverts at the end. The list goes on and on...

As for the ending, I have my own interpretation. It may not be right (in fact, it's probably way off the mark) but I'm just going to say that it's open to many different readings, and that this may be one of them.

SPOILERS

The movie itself is a reflection on society's obsession with beauty. The treatment Eun Young receives immediately after being raped is a great testament to this fact--the investigator hints that it may have been her own fault because of how she looks; her rapist confronts her, saying, "Your beauty raped me!"; on her way home she faints and is immediately surrounded by a group of men (only men) who each fight for the right to help her; the helpful cop goes home and masturbates to her stalker's video footage. Even afterwards, when Eun Young becomes obsessed with ruining her beauty, she can't escape society's (or man's) obsession with the beautiful. Even after locking herself in a toilet, binge-eating and throwing up, the "helpful" cop is overcome with sudden desire and must forcefully stop himself from kissing her; later, she passes out and is brought to the hospital where the doctor uses that opportunity to cop a feel and passively hit on her; even after she's dead, both morticians find themselves sexually drawn to her cadaver and take advantage. There's no escape--even in death, people are drawn to beauty.

Throughout the film, Eun Young and the helpful cop seem torn over what they want. Following the rape and the loss of her innocence (her virginity) Eun Young is torn between wanting to live and die--she flirts with the idea of cutting her wrists, but ultimately decides she wants to live. Since it was her beauty and scent that drew her stalker to her, she decides to eliminate both things from her life. She tries to sabotage her beauty by overeating and not bathing--but looking for a quicker solution, changes to exercising and bulimia, hoping to become so thin she'll drive potential stalkers away. In a way, she accomplishes her goal... but instead of finding comfort and safety, she's torn and confused, regretting her decision as she slowly becomes someone she no longer recognizes. She wants to be who she was before the rape... and yet, the memory of the man who ruined her continues to haunt her; preventing her from effectively moving on.

The helpful police officer has his own share of struggles. From the beginning, we can see he's a man who appreciates beauty... his wall is filled with pictures of flowers and pretty scenery, he keeps beautiful fish which he talks to and cares for. When he first meets Eun Young, he seems genuinely sympathetic and concerned for her. He condemns the rapist for his action; stands up to his superior when he disagrees with his treatment of her; helps her from an uncomfortable situation when she's surrounded by a group of men shortly after her rape. But slowly... gradually, you see his helpfulness becoming more obsessive in nature. Soon it's almost like he's stalking her--he follows her around out of "concern", watches her unhealthy eating habits, learns to recognize the things she likes and dislikes, rescues her when she's in trouble, guards her from outside her apartment, takes her picture and hangs it on his wall, masturbates to her image, kills his fish, and eventually (almost angrily) screams that he loves her. In a way, he's become the rapist he originally detested and condemned.

However, it's also possible to argue that he never really hated the rapist to start with. That in a way, he felt threatened or envious of the man's ability to do what he didn't think he had the balls to--to let his base desires take control, and just take her for himself. It's the familiar idea that "all men are pigs"--and that even those who try to argue the contrary, are in the end, still only interested in women as sex objects. The fact that many of his actions in the end reflect those of the rapist seems to attest for this idea.

But here's where the ending scene really comes into play. It's important to remember that although the original rapist blamed Eun Young's beauty for ruining his life... he still takes responsibility for his actions. When he learns she was a virgin, he leaves all of his identification and goes straight to the police station to turn himself in. The helpful cop reacts in a similar way, though he takes it a step further. When his obsession reaches its breaking point, he shifts the responsibility to Eun Young completely--he tapes a gun to her hand and gives her the means to control the situation herself, thereby freeing himself from any guilt or wrongdoing his actions could cause. He's just like the original rapist--basically saying "I can't hold back anymore, so I'll pay the price."

Ultimately it's a cop-out. In the end, it's Eun Young who's forced to deal with the repercussions of his actions anyway. Just like before.

And the thing is... Eun Young might have actually had feelings for the helpful cop. She left the door open (possibly on purpose), knowing he was right outside her door. And when he first starts to sleep with her--rape her--whatever you want to call it, she sees it's him and finally smiles. But then, suddenly, she starts to remember the original rape and the smile disappears. When helpful cop sits up, she hallucinates and sees her original rapist's face instead, and panicking, fires the gun. This of course sets off a psychological breakdown, which leads to her shoot out with the cops, and her death.

The sad thing is, this could have all been avoided. If society had made an effort--or even if Eun Young had made an effort--she could have gotten help. In the least, she needed counseling or someone to talk to. If helpful cop guy had genuinely loved her, rather than lusting after her beauty, he could have helped her properly and they could have started a healthy relationship, rather than the train wreck it became.

END SPOILERS

Again, that was just my interpretation, so ignore it if you disagree... or better yet, leave a comment with your own thoughts. ^_^

In a completely unrelated topic, I just love the poster they chose for this film. It really embodies the whole concept beautifully (ooh, a pun!). In fact, the second I saw this poster something in me just screamed "Kim Ki-Duk"--which is funny, since it turned out he didn't even direct this one, lol. But Jeon (Kim's protégé) uses mirrors and reflections in much the same way, so it's fitting that she should be looking at her reflection in such a thoughtful, pensive manner. After all, in this film they take the concept "beauty is only skin-deep" to a whole different level.

I really did enjoy this movie. (As you can probably tell by the length of the review). ^_^

As a huge fan of Kim's work, I will definitely be checking out more of Jeon Jae-Hong's work in the future!

Here are my favorite Kim Ki-Duk films in order (I'm including this one since he wrote the story and produced it--besides, Jeon's style is so very similar I couldn't even tell them apart!). This way I can remind myself how to grade them in the future or how they measure up (though I never did get around to reviewing Breath. Oh well, I'd give it a 4).

Crocodile, 3 Iron, Beautiful, Time, Breathe, Bad Guy
My Rating:

Comments

  1. Hi Angela, nice post. However, we thought Kim Ki-Duk is only the producer and writer for this film? The director should be Juhn Jai-Hong.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks 1minutefilmreview! I was so shocked to hear that--their styles are so similar! I'll definitely have to check out more of his films in the future--I really loved this one! ^_^

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  3. Wow-i read you're comments on AZNV.TV-for"Beauty"-then followed the link-to all you're reviewa-aalot of people i know hated that movie-so after reading you're review-i was really blown away-i agree with EVERYTHING you wrote-awesome job-anyway-i started reading you're other reveiws-and must say-you've got an amazing eye for movies-picking up stuff-not only in the background-but also in the movie posters and stuff-alot of people actually switch thier brains off-when watching something-and kinda end up missing so much!!-hey-i was wondering-if you've ever visited Crunchyroll.com-they're just like AZNV.TV-if you've not visited yet-then please check'em out-i'm sure you won't be dissapointed-and after you've become a member-message me-i'm on both AZNV and Crunchyroll-my user name is RSG2K8-anyway-i look foward to more of you're reviews.....

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  4. Hey!! Been reading some of your reviews and I'm loving them!! Just one question, where do you see the dramas? I use two sources and none of them have the ones I read about here and want to see, thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks! I'm glad you like my reviews! ^_^

    I watch a majority of these movies at:
    http://aznv.tv/?p=home and http://community.livejournal.com/jdramas/

    ReplyDelete
  6. thanks for this post... I just watched this movie...
    Who's cast of the rapist?
    I'm Indonesian Kmovie lovers...^^

    ReplyDelete

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