H is for Horror and Halloween – Tell Me Something

Tell Me Something is a 1999/2000 Korean Thriller.  (The double year is because every site says 1999 except IMDB which says 2000.  This is not the first time I have come across the duality of dates with Korean films.)


The basic plot is that bodies are being found with parts belonging to more than one person.  They have been dismembered and organs removed with great precision and skill and anatomical knowledge.  The third body is the first that enables the police to start ID’ing the bodies.  His ‘next of kin’ is an artist who is a bit shocked to discover that she knew ALL the men.  They were all former lovers of hers.

The movie itself is very dark. Many scenes are night scenes.  Day scenes are often shot in dark buildings or on cloudy days or with lighting to make the day look like it might have been cloudy.

While in color, the movie has a black and white feel as the men are almost always in black suits and the women in black slacks with white tops.  So during the night shots, this gives the impression that the men are just disembodied heads and hands.

This makes sense, stylistically, because the major theme in this movie is objectification.  Though the course of the movie, we find out that the woman,Chae Su-Yeon,  was the daughter of a famous artist.  As she was growing up, her father was obsessed with her in very inappropriate way and used her as a model for much of his art. One boyfriend had cameras installed to get images of her.  Even the police spend a lot of time viewing her through surveillance cameras.

Suspicion has been cast on her fourth boyfriend, of whom she is already tired, and she is attacked after they release.  A search of his place finds cameras hidden behind artwork and body parts in the refrigerator.  Su-yeon flees to the small family home her father keeps.  Although he has been missing for 5 years.

There is a lot of action in this movie even thought it is very quiet and the violence all occurs off-screen.  No one is frantically racing around the screen.  Dialogue is limited and to the point.  Many shots are of people sitting at desks.  But this is by no means a slow movie.  It is just very different from Hollywood fare.

We find out that Su-yeon’s friend is a doctor, a woman.  She has had several suicide attempts in the past and another one now.  But the police never get to see or speak to her because the friend keeps them away.  The fourth boyfriend is found dead and suspicion falls on the missing father.  They think he is stalking Su-yeon. She has had several suicide attempts in the past.  Detective Cho, who is trying to keeps her safe, is believed to be targeted because of his growing closeness to her as she is sent to stay with him so he can better protect her.  The relationship remains chaste.

He himself is on thin ground with the department.  He has just returned from work after a suspense for an investigation.  His mother had died after a long illness and it was thought he had been accepting bribes in order to pay for her medical care.

The relationship between Su-yeon and her doctor friend is important.  The fact that her father has been missing for 5 years is as well.  The movie is grisly, but I was able to get through it as once you really look at it, it looks somewhat fake.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a good movie and worth viewing.

So I won’t give anything else away.  Some people thought there was a twist at the end.  I don’t view it that way.  Though it may get a little confusing. There are many theories out there on what really happened.  The straight forward one I guessed at the beginning still fit with the ending.  So it will be more fun for you to watch it yourself and make up your mind.

Like most Korean films I’ve seen, not everything is clearly explained and you remain wondering a bit about what had really happened.  This one was actually clearer than most.  And perhaps that is why my initial reaction to it proved to be the correct one.  Or maybe I’m finally getting the hang of Korean movies.  But I think it is the former because it was filmed with the idea of marketing it in the West.

It is in subtitles.  Which turns some people off.   I would say, give it a try anyway.

My only complaint is that I never got the title.  I don’t know why it is called Tell Me Something.  I suppose, because I was watching parts of it through the pass-through window between the kitchen and living room as I was making dinner, I might have missed a line.  Maybe the title is just a line from the movie.  I don’t know.  Maybe the Korean words that mean Tell Me Something have more interpretations or nuances that the selected English translation.

 

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