The Scarlet Letter is a film that is really a love affair story even though they make it look like a murder movie by the movie ads. In her last film to appear (before her untimely death) Lee eun-ju give a performance so good it’s Oscar worthy. Believe me see this film it will not dissapoint you. Ki-hoon, a police captain who has a dark side, likes to have his cake and eat it too. You see, he’s investigating a woman whose affair may have led to her husband’s death. She is the prime suspect and his ongoing investigation reveals that she may have had her husband killed in order to be able to run away with her lover. This murder investigation is just the subplot, as the real meat and potatoes of The Scarlet Letter is about how Ki-hoon deals with the news that both his wife and his lover, who also happens to be his wife’s best friend, are both pregnant with his child.
It’s a strange movie, the kind that leads you to expect one thing, then offers something else in its stead once you’ve committed. From the beginning you’ll find that it’s hard to like the main character Ki-hoon, who is not only an accusatory detective, but also an immoral family-man who suggested that his mistress get an abortion. My shock must have paled in comparison to that of the general Korean population because Lee Eun-ju received a ton of backlash from this performance and eventually committed suicide. She was quite talented and lovely, so this was very unfortunate.
There must be a delicate line between baring it all and being too convincing in a sex scene, or perhaps there are different standards for different actresses. Was Kim Hye-soo sexy while Lee Eun-ju came off as sluttish?!?! Neither of their sex scenes were exceedingly pornographic. Perhaps Kim Hye-soo’s performance was justified by the fact that she had many other performances under her belt in which she did not appear nude. Anyway, there are a lot of unexpected twists at the end of the film that will leave most of you in disbelief. Among the Korean films I’ve seen, this one is up there in terms of shock factor.
Not surprisingly, The Scarlet Letter didn’t exactly break box office records when it was released in South Korea. This is to be expected, as with movies that are released over here in the states, the thinking mans movie doesn’t exactly rake in the dough. This having been said, the plot does meander somewhat, and frequently heads off on odd tangents, and Byun does seem more interested in his characters than in the actual murder itself. Dark and twisted, it still stands as one of the more ambitious and interesting mystery thrillers to have come from Korea in recent years.