Silenced (2011) Movie Review

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Yoo Gong in Silenced (2011) Movie Image

Based on the novel “Dokani” by Kong Ji Young and charting shocking real life events and sexual abuse at a school for hearing-impaired children, “Silenced” (a.k.a. “The Crucible”) emerged as the most controversial and harrowing Korean film of 2011. Directed by Hwang Dong Hyuk (“My Father”), the film is a bold attempt to raise public awareness about the case and to highlight disturbing flaws in the Korean educational and legal systems, focusing on the true story of how a teacher and social worker, played by Gong Yoo (“Finding Mr. Destiny”) and Jung Yoo Mi (“Oki’s Movie”) struggled to bring the perpetrators to justice. With strong performances from child actors Baek Seung Hwan, Kim Hyun Soo and Jeong In Seo, the film was a deserved success both critically and commercially, pulling in more than 4 million admissions at the domestic box office, and more importantly also led to a changing of laws and a reopening of the actual case.

The film begins with Gong Yoo as Ho, a single father trying to raise his sick daughter, who finds a job as a teacher at a school for hearing-impaired children in Mujin, a remote town known mainly for its fog. Upon arrival, the earnest young man is shocked when it’s politely made clear by the headmaster twin brothers (Jang Gwang, “Vampire Prosecutor”) that he has to make a sizable financial ‘donation’ to the school in return for his position. Settling into life at the school, he quickly realises that something is wrong, as he witnesses children being beaten and hears strange screaming in the corridors at night. After he rescues a young girl from being brutalised by a female teacher, with the help of social worker Yoo Jin (Jung Yoo Mi) he uncovers the monstrous truth about the sexual abuse going on at the school. Together they begin a long fight for justice, coming up against a system which seems to be specifically designed to protect the guilty.

Yu-mi Jeong in Silenced (2011) Movie Image

“Silenced” really is a true horror film, and makes for a tough, gruelling experience. Director Hwang Dong Hyuk doesn’t hold back, and the film never pulls its punches, with some horribly graphic scenes of violence and sexual abuse from early on. Once the confessions start, the film is fairly unrelenting, and it’s impossible to imagine any viewer not being shocked and heartbroken at the ordeals of the children, all the more so thanks to some amazingly brave and convincing performances from its young actors and actresses. The film is very well made, shot by Hwang with a grounded feel and dark, shadowy colours, with some good use of the mist which seems to permanently cloak the town. All of this makes the film depressingly believable, never letting the viewer forget that its tragic events really happened, and though not entirely bleak and showing a few glimmers of resilience and hope, it really is very upsetting throughout. This is of course the point, with Hwang’s purpose clearly being to generate outrage and lay bare the abhorrent abuse, and he achieves this with an admirable lack of manipulation or cheap shock tactics.

The film is equally distressing in its depiction of the Korean justice system and the way in which Ho and Yoo Jin are thwarted at almost every turn, despite having clear evidence of the awful crimes. The film is deeply critical of Korean society, and it’s at times very difficult to believe just how openly efforts are made to cover up the abuse and to protect those involved. Hwang shows corruption at all levels of the educational and legal system, and the film’s second half courtroom drama is tense and gripping without ever getting too preachy or adding in any unnecessary artificial drama.

Yoo Gong and Hyeon-soo Kim in Silenced (2011) Movie Image

Although frequently hard to watch, “Silenced” nevertheless comes very highly recommended and stands as not just the most controversial, but one of the best and most hard hitting Korean films of 2011. With its impressive real life achievements testament to its power and to the ability of cinema to be politically charged and worthy, Hwang Dong Hyuk has produced a stunning film which elicits anger, disbelief and horror, and which sticks in the memory long after its poignant conclusion.

Dong Hyeuk Hwang (director) / Jee-young Cong (based upon the novel by), Dong Hyeuk Hwang (screenplay)
CAST: Yoo Gong … Kang In-ho
u-mi Jeong … Seo Yoo-jin
Hyeon-soo Kim … Kim Yeon-doo
Ji-yeong Kim … In-ho’s grandmother
In-seo Jeong … Jin Yoo-ri
Seung-hwan Baek … Jeon Min-soo


Buy Silenced on DVD or Blu-ray

Author: James Mudge

James is a Scottish writer based in London. He is one of BeyondHollywood.com’s oldest tenured movie reviewer, specializing in all forms of cinema from the Asian continent, as well as the angst-strewn world of independent cinema and the plasma-filled caverns of the horror genre. James can be reached at jamesmudge (at) btinternet.com, preferably with offers of free drinks.
  • {Drea}

    Excellent review!

    After seeing the film I’m completely Numb. Frankly though I cannot even begin to understand how in the hell a Justice System can actually be set-up so that all a child Rapist (* Notice I did not say: child molester?) needs to do to get a lighter sentence is merely pay off their Victim’s family and hire a lawyer that used to be a Judge!

    Rape a child and pay off the family. The more rich you are the more children you can Rape. *Stunned*

    The entire time I was watching it I wept. The only time I was not weeping uncontrollably was when I was so angry I was yelling at the screen that Kang In-ho needs to give the man a beat-down or when I wanted him to slap the shite out of the sister. About that BITCH: She was most likely Raped by their father and brothers, but damn it I could not give a flying FRAKK! All I cared about was a mob breaking free and killing her, the Rapists, their Lawyer, the corrupt cop the Judge, the Prosecutor. They all needed to DIE as far as I was concerned.

    And when the boy, that poor boy killed his Rapist I knew he would die too and I broke down in hysterics. All because his Grand-mum frakking sold him out so he would not testify. Why did he have to die to get Justice? Why in the God’s name, why?

    About the money part what I felt was the Laws should be changed so that when a person is Convicted they Victims and their Family get a lot of money. And I do mean: A LOT!

    Again they need to change the damn Laws so that there is a Minimum sentence of 10 years for each time a person has been Convicted of Raping a child. Another thing: WHAT THE HELL WAS IT ABOUT, “A child under 9 cannot be Raped”? Uh, who in their moronic mind thinks that a child under 9 cannot be Raped? I mean they basically said it was physically impossible to Rape a younger child. Now I wish to the God’s that were true but Hell, baby girls have been Raped in Africa. BABIES! Yes, children that are too young to talk or walk, so that bull about girls under 9 year old cannot be Raped needs to be fixed.

    I’m so sorry for swearing and acting like this but I’m so shocked that it was not just a film but was Based on a True Story and that it has been said that the film was “lighter” than the actual events. It seems that the film makers had to “soften” the Truth and not show as much or tell as much as what actually happened at that school. Personally I think every damn child that ever attended was Raped. And I suspect that they were all Raped the moment they got to the school and were beaten later so the Rapists could Rape them some more and torture them some more.

    Also I think that the Principle actually video taped all of the Rapes and there was so, so many more. I mean a Rapist, especially a child Rapist does not only have two or three Victims — sometimes they have hundreds, heck sometimes thousands. Plus, I really feel that the “fee” for working at that school was basically so they could Rape the children and the school officials were like Pimps. Pimping those children out to that Janitor, the cop, hell anybody they wanted. After all that school was “only for ‘disabled’ kids and everybody knows they are less than human”. That is exactly how those pigs thought. To them those kids should be grateful for even being at that school.

    * Those children were NOT “molested”. Despite what the claims that were made in the trial — those children were violently RAPED.

  • Regina

    When my friend invited me to watch this movie, I was in doubt in the first time, because I still Korean movies are mostly on the cheap drama. Then I started to consider this movie as one of the best movie that very brave to show how sick were the abusers and the justice system. We also learn from this movie how fragile are the children, especially the ones who can not hear and speak up. Some one should speak for them and it takes brave people to do so. Congrate to the director and special award for the children actors.

    • i_already_ordered_a_pizza

      You should watch more Korean movies. There are lots of masterpieces.