Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
Ghost In Love
Even after catching her fiancee, Nah Han-soo, with another woman, Jin Chae-byul (BICHUNMOO's Kim Hee-sun) refuses to accept that the man no longer cares for her. While she is waiting for the subway, a pair of otherworldly figures appear and try to convince her to jump in front of an oncoming train. When that doesn't work, one pushes Chae-byul on to the tracks. Now dead, she finds herself a member of The Society for Suicide Ghosts and is given the new name "Sudden." The society claims to provide a service for the dead, allowing them to visit the Earth whenever they please and avoid spending eternity as wandering spirits. S.S.G. is looked down upon by Heaven and Hades but their actions have been largely ignored, since those who commit suicide cannot be reborn and are no longer the concern of those above and below. However, their attention is alerted when S.S.G. members break the rule stating that no violence may be perpetrated against a human being. The main violator is this regard is "Pale Face," a woman who committed suicide after being gang raped and now spends her time hunting down and dispatching the men responsible. All of the S.S.G. "recruiters" are boors, save for the sensitive "Kantocrates" (ATTACK THE GAS STATION!'s Lee Sung-jae), so nicknamed because of his love of Kant and Hippocrates. Instead of actively finding new members, he spends his time roaming hospitals telling doctors how to save terminal patients. Kantocrates tries to help Sudden deal with her new circumstances but she is gradually swayed by Pale Face's views and seeks to destroy Han-soo, who is on the verge of getting married. Meanwhile, a determined Messenger (one of the beings that enforce the otherworldly laws) is tracking both Pale Face and Sudden and it is up to Kantocrates to prevent the latter from suffering the fate that Pale Face has already resigned herself to.
Kim Hee-sun. Image courtesy Spectrum.
While it does borrow an idea or two from the Hollywood movie GHOST and goes a bit overboard on flashy CGI FX, GHOST IN LOVE is a thoughtful film with some very interesting concepts and its own unique world. In fact, the screenplay is so inventive that the exploitation elements (like a more graphic than necessary depiction of Pale Face's rape and the "Erotomaniac" ghosts, demons that prowl around at night, sexually assaulting female ghosts) are distracting and unnecessary. Director Lee Kwang-hoon does lighten the mood effectively, when appropriate, by incorporating aspects of this world that are blithely humorous (one of the Messengers yearns for the old days, when hours were shorter and some humans would bribe him, in exchange for a longer life). This is particularly the case with the depiction of the S.S.G., which is run via the prototypical Asian business edict, with those who have fallen behind on their quotas subject to humiliating lectures in front of co-workers. However, the film's main strength lies in its surprising poignancy, such as the pain these disenfranchised spirits feel when faced with the reality that their human loves (whom they focus on incessantly) have moved on with their lives and largely forgotten them. Equally effective is a scene where one of the S.S.G. recruiters begins his usual Your life is worthless taunting but cannot continue when he realizes that the human subject of the day is suffering from the same problems that drove him to end his own life. A subplot about Kantocrates' desire to find his fiancee and somehow tell her to shed the guilt she feels about his death, is also resolved in an unexpected and touching manner. If the events in the finale seem a bit pat, the direction the story goes was never really in doubt anyway and our affection for the characters and the film is such that it will not be an issue for most viewers.