A brother without memories in Kang Haneul’s new film Forgotten
I am equal parts intrigued and terrified to watch this film. I love it when stories play with memory, and specifically how unreliable and subjective they can be, so while Forgotten looks like it would be right up my alley, the scaredypants in me might not be able to take the thriller aspect of the film. Just the teasers had me watching from behind my fingers, but I might just suck it up to watch Kang Haneul (Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo) and Kim Mu-yeol (My Beautiful Bride) play a pair of troubled brothers.
The film, the Korean title of which is literally translated Night of Memory, begins with the older brother Kim Mu-yeol getting mysteriously kidnapped right after his family moves into a new home. His kidnapping triggers nightly auditory and visual hallucinations in his younger brother, Kang Haneul. Thankfully, Kim Mu-yeol returns after a 19-day ordeal, but can’t remember anything about his captivity, and his younger brother grows more and more suspicious that he’s become a different person. Kang Haneul decides to follow his older brother, who has taken to disappearing every night, and happens upon a shocking secret.
The teasers are unsettling, to say the least, and there’s a murder at the center of the story, the truth of which is hidden among the two brothers’ fragmented, unreliable memories. Kang Haneul narrates in the first teaser, “That rainy night, in that familiar place, the red-tainted piano, the sharp screams, the nightmarish memories. I am not crazy.” I got actual goosebumps in the last scene of the first teaser, where a scarily determined Kim Mu-yeol stands over his sleeping brother, and starts pushing lead out of a mechanical pencil pointed at Kang Haneul’s eye.
I really love the second teaser, as well, with the two brothers sitting across from each other, happily enjoying a glass of wine and each other’s company, intercut with some eerie scenes of Kim Mu-yeol looking distinctly criminal and a door creaking open on a sleeping Kang Haneul. The camera zooms in on the strangest family photo, where Kang Haneul is the only one smiling straight at the photographer, and the rest of his family have their backs turned. The copy in the teaser reads, “The two men are lying. Their different, misaligned memories.” Kang Haneul is shown to take green pills and there’s a shot of Kim Mu-yeol yelling that none of it ever happened, so is Kang Haneul actually crazy, or is Kim Mu-yeol not his brother after all?
Despite my usual aversion to anything scary, I might have to watch this film not only for the two brothers, whose conflict is central to the story, but also for Na Young-hee (Legend of the Blue Sea) and Moon Sung-geun (Falsify), who play their shady-looking parents. And I trust the director Jang Hang-joon, who also wrote the script, to deliver a taut, twisty story that’s sure to keep me at the edge of my seat. I mean, the man made a pretty credible action thriller mini-film for Infinite Challenge with the help of his star writer wife, Kim Eun-hee (Signal), so I believe in his directorial skills.
Forgotten is due to premiere on November 29. Now, to watch or not to watch, that is the question.
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