Secret Tears

Director:  Park Ki-hyeong
Year: 2000
Rating: 6.5

Country: Korea

When this Korean supernatural film was released in 2000 it lasted in theaters about the length of the lifespan of a mayfly. Nobody showed up and it quickly disappeared from sight like a newsman who masturbated on Zoom. This was unexpected considering that the director was Park Ki-hyeong who two years earlier had directed Whispering Corridors as part of the High School girl horror trilogy to acclaim and good box office returns . But as I watched the film I could understand that reaction - it is ponderously slow, deliberate and drawn out as the story emerges almost from a cocoon of passivity. Park is in no rush to give the audience thrills and often will stick with a close-up a few seconds longer than is the norm - uncomfortable - just staying there as the seconds tick by - gazing at his two main actors as if invading their thoughts.

It creeps along though building a mood of unease, of dark expectations but he never throws out a jump scare or really any horror -  it is as much a tragedy, a forbidden unrealized love story - perhaps what you might expect in a moral folk tale told in hushed tones. It is beautifully shot, quite artistic in the camera placement and obsessively provides more close-ups than in a Johannes Vermeer exhibition. I actually quite liked it. It just got a hold of me. Much of it due no doubt to the eyes of Jang Min-Kyung, that are otherworldly, larger than a sauce pan at times, deeply morose, quietly beseeching and a little scary. Her eyes do all the acting for her in this. Clearly, the director was entranced by her eyes as well. This is the only credit she has so my guess is that the director saw her somewhere and said this is the girl I need for this film.

Three friends from work - two men and a female - are out drinking at a karaoke  - two of them are having an affair - Hyeon-nam (Jeong Hyeon-woo) and Do-kyung (Park Eun-suk) - while Ku-ho (Kim Seung-woo) is recovering badly from his wife leaving him with a parting gift of telling him that she never loved him. They drink too much and get in their car and drive. A young girl in her high school uniform sits on a curb - staring at a giant moon when a tear emerges like a scream of despair - as it rolls down her cheek it begins to rain in sheets of water - she stands up in the street and gets hit by the car. He body flies thirty feet into the air and lands with a crash on the concrete.

The three rush out expecting she is dead but she doesn't have a scratch on her. Ku-ho takes her unconscious body back as he is frightened to report this - when she wakes up she has lost her memory and her ability to talk. But as the film moves along she seemed to have gained something as well. Powers. An ability to communicate without talking and an ability to move water. Ku-ho begins to fall in love with this young girl - she with him - he needs to fill an empty hole, she because she knows nothing else. His two friends keep telling him he can't keep her - why not - they find out who she is and that some bad things happened in her past. And her powers are growing. Again, this attached itself to me like a dream not quite forgotten but it takes patience and perseverance at 105 minutes. A lot is left unexplained by the director - why wasn't she hurt when the car hit her, did she do something venal in the past, why are her powers growing, did she have powers before the crash - all murky and never answered.