Woman of Fire
Director: Kim Ki-young
Cast: Youn Yuh-jung, Jeon Gye-hyeon, Nam Koong Won
Film genre: Drama, Crime
98 mins, 1971
Distributed by Woo-jin Films
Woman of Fire sees Kim Ki-Young remake his stunning classic The Housemaid (1960) with an energy and passion that would come to define Korean cinema of the 1970s. Focusing on the role women play within the home, the film follows a composer and his wife, whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the introduction of a new housemaid. The film features stunning cinematography (from regular Kim collaborator Jung Il-Sung), with striking red and blue hues allowing the film to transition seamlessly from moments of peace to ones of manic melodrama.
The small chicken farm forming the backdrop of the film becomes a pressure cooker of contrasts, whether it be divided affections or the stark contrast between urban and rural culture. Tension builds steadily as Kim navigates us through a narrative that keeps the audience guessing at every twist and turn. Woman of Fire can be seen as a high stakes chamber drama: the aesthetic brilliance of Douglas Sirk meeting the intense close quarters of Henrik Ibsen, one of Kim’s favourite playwrights.