BLUEBEARD (2017) is a South Korean psychological thriller by writer/director Lee Soo-Youn. The film delivers a creepy serving of twists and turns that can feel as confusing and disorienting as they are deliberately driving a purposeful narrative. The conclusion provides clarity for our most pressing questions, but leaves us hanging with another still in wait.
On the surface is the story of Dr. Byun Seung-hoon (Cho Jin-Woong) who is suffering with insomnia following the breakup of his marriage. He left his home and successful practice in an upscale area to live in a working-class neighborhood in a tiny apartment, working in a small medical clinic conducting proctology exams. Soon, he begins having difficulty deciphering reality from illusion while dismembered bodies start showing up near his apartment as the river began to thaw. He finds himself entangled in the murder investigation while he suspects his landlord, the butcher, of foul play.
Beneath the surface, however, seems to be another theme that is perhaps a bold statement on the dangers of disassociation of connections and relationships in modern urban culture. It is strongly implied that this abrupt disruption from home, wife, child, professional identity and economic class helped ignite the doctor’s decline in mental stability—that the strain of these sudden jarring changes and absence of connectedness brought on a psychological collapse.
Other social themes were also briefly exposed in the story as touchstones to our modern age such as global warming, surveillance culture, access to healthcare, classism, sexism, etc. All of these elements grounded us in the modern burdens of some of the most pressing social problems in our lives. The timeline was clear and relevant: This is now. Meanwhile, the audience is taken on an active journey with the doctor through his crises, questioning what is real, imagined and sinister, while also being exposed to other parallel sides of the same story, adding a significant depth of view.
BLUEBEARD is the follow-up feature from Lee Soo-Youn, following her acclaimed debut THE UNINVITED (2003). Women Texas Film Festival (WTxFF) co-presented BLUEBEARD at the 2017 Dallas Asian Film Festival with an introduction to the screening hosted by WTxFF Artistic Director Justina Walford. Walford emphasized the importance of female filmmakers across the globe, like Soo-Youn, who are far too rare in the film industry in any country. This is particularly true in the genres of horror, thrillers, action and sci-fi—where women filmmakers have created stunning work but are rarely supported with significant production budgets and main-stream studio opportunities.