think I’ll miss you forever
like the stars miss the sun in the morning sky
late is better than never
even if you’re gone, I’m going to drive, drive, drive
i’ve got that summertime, summertime sadness
Everything is my fault
I’ll take all the blame
Aqua seafoam shame
Sunburn with freezer burn
Choking on the ashes of her enemy
Whilst I have never been an enthusiast of the macabre, Hanyeo (The Housemaid)—another Criterion selection—was simultaneously creepy, tragic, and disturbing, a forthright critique (versus the surrealist whimsy of le charme discret de la bougeoisie) of human nature and veiled corruption within the middle class.
Yet for the comparisons to Buñuel and Hitchcock, Kim Ki-young can be best figured out mainly by filtering him through those who followed, from the aforementioned modern Korean directors to the work of Roman Polanski, whose Apartment trilogy would adopt, however unintentionally, the off-kilter, subtly shrinking frame that creeps up on the audience until you blink and suddenly the film is half its original size and a hell of a lot more terrifying. By focusing intently not on the rich but the middle class who pursues wealth at all costs, The Housemaid attains a moral complexity that sidesteps a screed. The maid, in all her terrifying glory, can and should be seen as an entity unto herself, a creature who destroys without reason à la Iago. She does, though, have her metaphorical weight: the maid herself might have no motive to abuse and kill the family, but her symbolic representation as the working-class refusing to let the Kims shake it off so casually adds an element of disturbing commentary to her significance. Her abuse is not so much revenge or class warfare as self-annihilation, the faction of the working class that gets put down even by members of the same social rank finally lashing back at the hypocrisy. “Is it okay you treated my body like a toy?” the maid screams at the couple, and however much she herself manipulated both of them into messing with her body, she has a point concerning how much the Kims dehumanized her from the start.