When a young girl is sent away to a boarding school, she soon comes to see that it’s not your typical school, and her classmates are all mysteriously disappearing one by one.
The Silenced is a 2015 South Korean mystery/thriller starring Park Bo-Young (Don’t Click), Park So-Dam (The Royal Tailor), and Uhm Ji-Wan (The Scarlet Letter). It is directed by Lee Hae-Young.
Similar to most South Korean cinema of this particular genre, The Silenced looks absolutely wonderful. The colors are deep and rich. The costumes and settings are very well done. It has classic cinematography, and the pacing is pretty fantastic. It has some very emotional moments that most definitely brought a tear to my eye.
While many foreign films are much slower than what mainstream American audiences are used to, I will admit that I was taken aback by how long it took for the scares to start happening in this particular movie. Until about halfway through, I was starting to think I was watching a drama instead of a thriller. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s still interesting to watch. It’s just that if you’re expecting some messed up scares, you’ll have to wait a while for them to start.
The setting of this film is during the 1930s while the Japanese were occupying Korea. I’m not sure if the film itself explicitly states this time period. I figured it out myself based off of the costuming and mixture of Korean and Japanese language within the film. There is definitely cultural significance to this. It relates to the obvious plot conflicts and the subtext.
As I mentioned above, the majority of this film plays out like a drama. You have a bunch of teen girls, who have either been orphaned or tossed aside by their families, all living in a boarding house. They are given mysterious medications daily. They are forced into some sort of competition with each other. Tensions are high, and teenage drama ensues.
About halfway through the story, more focus starts getting put on the disappearances that have been somewhat of an after thought. This is when we start getting some of the scares that we have come to expect from these types of films. At this point, the film starts to become very interesting. It goes in directions I was not immediately anticipating.
Overall, The Silenced is a pretty intense critique of the Japanese occupation before and during WWII. The scars left behind from that historical event are still pretty raw, and if you look at it from that angle, it makes the overall story of this film even more horrifying. It’s a look at the loss of freedom and autonomy. It’s pretty effective. It’s very tragic.
It’s got a bit of a slow start, but if Korean thrillers are usually a good experience for you, then you may very well enjoy The Silenced. Park Bo-Young does a really great job in this as the main character Shizuko/Ju-Ran. Park So-Dam does a decent job as Kazue/Yeon-Deok as well. I liked it.