Samaritan Girl

Starring: Yeo-reum Han, Ji-min Kwak and Eol Lee
Tartan DVD
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3643
Certificate: 18
Available 21 August 2006

Yeo-jin and Jae-young are two young school girls who come up with a novel way to earn money to buy plane tickets to Europe, they turn to prostitution. Quickly it becomes obvious that this form of commerce comes with a psychological price. Yeo-jin sets up the meetings and takes care of the money while Jae-young has sex with the men. Tensions in the girl's relationship are obvious as Yeo-jin feels more and more like a pimp. When Jae-young kills herself jumping out a window to escape the police Yeo-jin vows to sleep with the same men again to return their money. During one such liaison she is spotted by her detective father, Yeong-ki, whose anger towards the men explodes in a trail of violence. Father and daughter escape to the countryside, each in their way looking for redemption and forgiveness...

Samaritan Girl (2004) is another interesting film written and directed by Ki-duk Kim, whose previous films have included Address Unknown, Bad Guy, The Coast Guard and The Isle. The film won the Silver Berlin Bear at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Gold Bear.

Although beautifully shot, the film does suffer from a number of problems. First and foremost is the two young leads relationship. Thrown straight into their life of teenage prostitution, and then the sudden death of Jae-young, we are never given the chance to get to know the girls and their motivations prior to the untimely death. So, Yeo-jin's decision to return all the money the girl's had made, by re-sleeping with Jae-young' clients, does not really make any sense. In this I'm sure that the subtitles don't do the original justice as it translates her decision as being so that she does not feel as sorry for Jae-young. Why she didn't just return the money, without sleeping with anyone is never made clear, presumably it is her way of atoning for her complicity in her friend's death.

The film really starts to come into its own when the father discovers what he thinks she is doing and follows her. Through her eyes we see the men justify their desire to sleep with young girls, and for a moment in the film you're almost convinced that the director is out to justify it. Only when the men are confronted by the father does their own inner guilt show through, they know it's wrong from both a legal and moral stance. With the lies exposed, and in one case exposed in front of his family, one man cannot come to terms that he is sleeping with someone younger than his own daughter and kills himself.

Ki-duk Kim also implicates Yeong-ki, when he, in distress, invites one of his friends out to talk. What actually happens is that his friend tries to chat up a group of young girls and is shocked by Yeong-ki's negative reaction. The point being drawn is that he himself, prior to his discovery, must have engaged in such practices for his friend to consider it normal. The sexualisation of young women runs deep in many cultures and Yeong-ki is not as innocent as he would like to believe.

The film is multi-layered with meaning and requires the audience's attention. This is no mere exploitation film, but a serious look at the lies that surround the sexualisation of young women and the deep desire for atonement for the wrong doings that we do to each other.

This was a good film that was sadly let down by the DVD release. The cover that was supplied promised a directors interview and introduction, but all the film comes with is four trailers for other films. The audio options are better giving a choice of stereo, 5.1 and DTS with English subtitles and the film is presented in a very clear anamorphic 1.85:1.

Charles Packer

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