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[Korean DVD] Choosing a less-trodden path in 'Memento Mori'

2004/05/07 Source

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" is one of the most astute sayings of our time. Used to describe the anger of a woman who has been rejected in love, this proverb carries even more clout when both parties to the affair are female Korean high school students.

Throw in the less-known but equally salient "Control thy passions lest they take vengeance on thee" and you've got the story line for 1999's "Memento Mori" (a.k.a. "Whispering Corridors 2"), a tragic romance spiced with pinches of horror and the supernatural.

Set in a boarding school for girls, "Memento Mori" (which means "remember the dead" in Latin) tracks the disturbing chain of events that unfold after Min-ah (Kim Min-sun) discovers the secret shared diary of her two classmates Hyo-shin (Park Ye-jin) and Shi-eun (Lee Young-jin).

Unable to resist the lure of this literary forbidden fruit, Min-ah learns of Hyo-shin and Shi-eun's passionate lesbian love affair and is soon obsessed with the brooding Shi-eun.

Following Hyo-shin's suspicious death, the school feels the wrath of her tortured spirit's fury, a situation that Min-ah attempts to understand by delving deeper into the pages of the diary. But in this instance, all the extra study is for nought, serving only to trap Min-ah in a sinister vortex where the boundaries between reality and the supernatural have blurred.

Released as a sequel to 'Whispering Corridors" (1998), "Memento Mori" bears no semblance to the original horror-chick flick. Using an all-new story line and characters, the collaborative directorial and writing team of Kim Tae-yong and Min Kyu-dong choose the path less traveled in Korean cinema by electing to frame this genre-defying movie around a homosexual relationship.

With the story focused squarely on the emotional aspect of Hyo-shin and Shi-eun's relationship, the only hint of the film's more graphic nature lies in the trailer feature of the DVD, which shows the couple frolicking in a bath together. This scene did not make it past the censors and would have gone a long way toward resolving some of the ambiguities that exist in the story line concerning the seriousness of the relationship.

With excellent production values, a haunting musical score and surprisingly mature performances from what is a predominantly young cast, "Memento Mori" is a highly recommended watch that will remind viewers of David Lynch's ("Lost Highway" and "Mullholland Dr".) ability to erase the lines between reality and fantasy.

Of particular note is Park Ye-jin's performance as Hyo-shin. Better known these days for her role as a philandering, manipulative wife in the SBS drama "What Happened in Bali", Park turns in an impressive performance that demonstrates her versatility as an actress.

John Marchant

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