Kim Ki-young is one of Korea's most iconic director and created what many critics believe to be Korea's greatest film: "The Housemaid - 1960". Kim would later return to the themes and images found in that masterly film, and produced two other very similar movies that would later be called his 'Housemaid trilogy'.
The following gallery contains a selection of shots and comments from his second film in that trilogy: "Woman of Fire" (1971) - To Remember, Share, and Enjoy! [spoiler].
The film starts with an interrogation of Jeong-sook over the two dead bodies found in her home, that of her husband and their housemaid.
The detective isn't sure what to make of the murders. He has the confession of a young man, but the evidence doesn't add up.
[Flashback] Myeong-ja and her friend in the country before they are forced to find work in the city.
While the two girls are walking in the medow, two young man are pounding a piece of metal into shape.
The farm boys then chase down Myeong-ja and her friend and try to rape them. Myeong-ja has an eplieptic fit and one of boys gets a rock to the skull for his troubles.
The country bumpkins on a train into the big city. Myeong-ja plans to try find work as a housemaid, while her friend has plans to work at a bar.
Seoul circa 1971
The young gals are new to the city and are awestruck by it.
The girls make use of a broker to find them work. Here, Myeong-ja finds work with Jeong-sook who has a chicken eggs business.
Jeong-sook shows Myeong-ja how to use the chicken-feed grinder.
Myeong-ja gets introduced to the family, and the kids laugh at her becuase she does, in fact, look like a country bumpkin.
Myeong-ja is intially clumsy at her choirs.
Like in Kim Ki-young's "The Housemaid" (1960), rats and rat poison are a common motif. Here, Jeong-sook finds a rat in the kitchen cupboard, but Myeong-suk is not afriad and takes care of it...
The kids teasing each other.
Dong-sik is a musical composer and teacher.
One of Dong-sik's students says she has the W500,000 to buy his new song, but fails to deliver and later offers her body instead.
Yellows, reds, and blues are constant colour motifs used throughout. Here, Myeong-ja is washing clothes in the lurid bathroom when Jeong-sook hands her her husband's underwear.
A rare moment of family bliss as Dong-sik shares the good news that he has a buyer for his song.
Myeong-ja's friend's at a bar getting picked up by a sleezy businessman.
After completing her choirs Myeong-ja heads to bed. But before she does she dims the lights down to red.
She hears the owners lovemaking and sneaks around to take a peek.
Myeong-ja watching the couple indulge each other.
The spectacle induces another epileptic fit, the same as when she was sexually assualted in the country.
Jeong-sook and Myeong-ja's relationship is going well. Here, Jeong-sook tells her that she will be taking the kids to their grandparents and that she should do whatever it takes to prevent her husband from cheating. To seal the promise, Jeong-sook offers her chicken and some salt.
Dong-sik's student makes a convienant return and confesses that she doesn't have the money for his song. She tries to force herself on him as payment.
Kim uses montages at various times throughout the film. This is a flashe from when Myeong-ja and Dong-sik are having sex (Dong-sik was very drunk from the rice wine Myeong-ja made, and embraces her thinking she is his student-either way not good)
Jeong-sook returns to her guilty husband who is acting a little strange by not welocoming them at the door--but he's safe for now.
Jeong-sook is teaching Myeong-ja to differeniate between male and female chicks. The males are discarded she tells her.
Confession time for Dong-sik.
Jeong-sook confronts the pregnant Myeong-ja in the bathroom. She apologises and bursts out crying and splashes her face with water, almost as if to hide her non-existent tears.
She agrees to an abortion, but then tries to run away.
Having had her abortion, Myeong-ja starts to go a little nuts. Here she enters their bedroom and steals their baby (somewhere in between all this Jeong-sik was also pregnant?) and then throws it down the stairs, killing it.
Myeong-ja starts to lose her mind, and a more demonic and sinister creature comes through.
After killing their child, Myeong-ja demands that she have access to Dong-sik physically. A deal Jeong-sook agrees to avoid the shame the scandal would cause them.
Myeong-ja smilling through stained glass cups as she pulls Dong-sik away from his wife.
[flashforward] Jeong-sook is silent as the police continue to probe her over the murders.
Myeong's friend has come forward with a letter she was given in case anything happen to Myeong-ja. In it, Myeong-ja writes that Jeong-sook was trying to kill her and so now the police are confused.
Myeong-ja's broker tries to push her into providing him with sexual favours in exchange for keeping quite about her past. She gives him money and laughs at him, saying she is no longer the soft country bumpkind.
The broker persues her into the house and things get messy...
Myeong-ja kills the broker and then sets-up the body to suggest that Dong-sik may have killed him (as a burgular) while he was drunk.
A great shot of Myeong-ja against a blown-out Seoul sky.
Joeng-suk and Myeong-ja start to challenge each other around the house. Here, Jeong-sook finds a dead rat. She is dressed in a tiger-patterned dress.
Suspecting that Jeong-sook may try to posion her, Myeong-ja replaces the posion with sugar water; which Myeong-ja later tastes in the drink she has Jeong-sook make for her. It is then that she gives the letter to her friend.
Myeong-ja going deeper into madness.
She has completely corrupted Dong-sik and his wife now. They are afraid to go against her soley for the sake of their family's name and honour.
Jeong-sook tells the two that she will take care of the broker's body, and Myeong-ja assumes she disposed of it with the chicken-feed grinder. Instead, she dumped it where it would be found; believing that it was someone Myeong knew and the her husband was not invovled.
Myeong-ja blackmails Dong-sik into helping her keep the murder quiet. Here she is showing him how murders cover their faces when they are arrested. The police are outside in the garden looking for the murder weapon: Broken red china.
Femme Fatale held by her prize.
Dong-sik's look when she tells him them must commit suicide together.
She holds the rat poison she took from the kitchen.
Myeong-ja preparing their last drinks, which Dong-sik says it doesn't taste that bad.
The two hold the glasses up to one another and drink deep. Then get physical for the last time.
The rat posion starts to kick-in, Dong-sik tells her that he wants to spend his last moments with his wife downstairs. This upsets Myeong-ja who tries to stop him.
Butterflies are another theme running thoughout, a kind of twisted metamorphosis.
There is no explicit nudity in the main scenes, but Kim does go this far with his montages.
Two lovers are briefly seen in one of the flashes.
Dong-sik stummbles down the stairs to his wife, and with his dying breath tells Jeong-sook to stab him to make it look like a burgular broke in. Again, all to save the family's honour.
Jeong-sook in despair.
Myeong-ja's friend realises that her friend's story doesn't hold true and sympathesis with the newly widowed Jeong-sook.
The two walk off together down the street. One shoe lost to the storm.
Kim Ki-young's "Woman of Fire" (1971) can be experienced (with English subtitles) on the Korean Film Archive's YouTube page. It's an amazing free service that provides easy access to over eighty pieces of classic Korean cinema-So go explore, appreciate, and discover the richness of Korea's cinematic past!
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