There is often some ugly truth behind election campaigns. The tactics may involve smear, libel, media manipulation and lies with all sorts of emotional appeal. But what about infanticide? The Truth Beneath is a Korean political thriller which raises a very unusual question: would you kill your own daughter in order to ẃin the sympathy and therefore defeat your opponent in an election? Can politics get that dirty?
The second feature film the Korean female director Lee Kyoung-mi is flooded with whirlwind twists, not too different from the recent presidential elections in the US. Yeon-Hong (Son Ye-Jin, pictured above) is married to Jong-Chan (Kim Ju-Hyeok) and they have an adolescent daughter called Min-Jin (Shin Ji-Hoon). Jong-Chan is running for office at the National Assembly. Suddenly Min-Jin goes missing, and her mutilated body is found. Yeon-Hong begins to suspect that her husband is involved in the murder of their daughter for the purpose of increasing his ratings. So she sets off in a mission to investigate what led to the teenager’s death, and to find out whether her very own spouse would be capable of carrying one of the most shocking crimes imaginable: infanticide.
The Truth Beneath is an elegant and gripping noir thriller, in the tradition of good Korean movies such as Mother (Bong Joon-ho, 2009) and Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003). The narrative is fast and complex, with emotional depth and visual flare. There is plenty of attention to trivial details: a close-up of the lips, food being chopped, the reflection a ringing mobile phone on a mirrored table, raindrops on a window, etc. The montage is also highly inventive, with faux raccords, objects morphing into something else (such as head turning into a person with their hands up), and a particularly impressive – if very short – sequence where the sun rapidly sets while a car drives down a road (as if dusk lasted just a couple of seconds). Top-drawer performances also help to sustain the borderline absurd plot: Son Ye-Jin delivers a passive-aggressive type of motherhood which will keep you riveted to your seat, afraid for your very own physical integrity.
Teenage angst is also a central pillar, and the director succeeds at blending a girl’s colourful world with the grim and gruesome elements of murder. There’s plenty of violence contrasted with the pink and the puerile. Colours are deftly used; there’s also pop music and creepy whistling and yodelling. The imagery, the performances and the incidental details of this movie will linger in your memory. Not to be missed!!!
The Truth Beneath is showing as part of the London Korean Film Festival taking place between November 3rd and 27th – just click here for more information.
Don’t forget to watch the film trailer below: