Vincent Hedan
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여고괴담 2: Memento Mori

Magical inspiration comes from lesbian schoolgirls in Korea.

Released in 1999, it’s my favorite movie out of the series I first discussed in a previous post. The release of the first movie gave a bad image of south korean schools; this second movie goes even further. And adds another taboo: lesbianism. However it is not an erotic movie, as the director doesn’t address the sexual aspect of the relationship but rather the complex link between two persons who in that movie happen to be two young women. 

The plot revolves around a shared diary, something that is quite common in south korean schools. Rather than writing a personal diary alone, a young woman invites a friend to write together, each of them taking turn to fill the pages. And those two students fall in love. Later on, a third girl finds the diary that had been hidden, and by reading she follows the evolution of the relationship. That’s where the «magic» happens, in the influence of the journal’s reading on the real world. Little by little, the elements of the past, in the journal, infiltrate those of the present.

The movie doesn’t use the classic gimmick of having the flashbacks in black and white. The different timeframes have the same aspect, and some elements of the past and present sometimes interlace in the same scene, overlaid on top of each other. This style has also been very well used by Japanese director Satoshi Kon, in particular in his anime Millennium Actress.

As in the first movie, Memento Mori is very discreet in terms of special effects, and rather than using cheap but unconvincing effects, the director decided to show very little. Therefore most of the magical effects here are essentially staging ideas.

In my opinion, the most interesting idea is the following: reading the personal diary of someone creates a magical connection with this person.



I can see two approaches to this «divination» effect. Firstly, the magician is able, although he’s not looking, to tell on which side of his head is an object (there already such an effect on the magic market). Secondly, a spectator is able to do the same. The two effects could actually be both part of the same routine.

We also note that in that scene, it is not important to find on which side is the tuning fork. What is important is that being able to find the tuning fork let us know if yes or no we have hearing troubles (from which the tested girl suffers). Therefore you have to find an effect in which the issue is, rather than just finding the object, that finding the object informs/shapes the condition/fate of the person. As a consequence, the impact increases and also becomes more personal for the spectator.

Those of you who don’t like horror movies can watch this one without fear; its atmosphere is strange but has nothing in common with classic horror movies during which you jump out of your seat all the time. The entire movie is set during the day and that is surprising for the genre (except for the last fifteen minutes where a storm makes the school very dark).

The time structure of the movie is completely disturbed, reminding us of Pulp Fiction and its chronological chaos, as well as Memento, a brilliant movie with a similar title but whose story is completely different.

Sidenote : the main actress in 여고괴담 2 : Memento Mori is called Kim Min-sun, but has changed her name since then, and became Kim Gyu-ri. Kim Gyu-ri, who happens to also be the name of the main actress in 여고괴담 1 : Whispering Corridors, the movie I discussed in the first article of this series.

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