Surrogate Mother

In 15th-century Korea, a feisty teenager from a community of paid surrogate mothers is chosen by an aristocratic family to bear a child for its eldest son, whose wife is barren, and despite her mother's warnings she falls in love with the husband. Director Im Kwon-taek meticulously re-creates the rigid patriarchy of a feudal household, down to the rituals that are supposed to produce a male heir. His 1986 melodrama recalls Kenji Mizoguchi's sorrowful paeans to defiant women in its mise-en-scene: amid confined spaces the voyeuristic camera registers the ambivalence of the characters, particularly the young wife, who clings to her exalted status even as her husband succumbs to her surrogate's charms. In Korean with subtitles. 95 min.

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