July 14, 2014

Silenced: Making Noise About Crimes Against Deaf Children

You won't find me defending any criminal justice system when someone says it's unfairly prejudiced or arguing with the agitator who claims that the rich will always get away with the most heinous crimes or debating about whether there's a crime worse than child molesting. Yet while director Hwang Dong-hyuk and novelist Cong Jee-young and I might agree on such matters, Silenced -- the movie Hwang's made on Cong's book -- still left me feeling icky, not validated in my worldview. I can't speak to Cong's novel (The Crucible) but Hwang's depicted cruelties and perversions last a little too long for my taste. When a young boy is beaten by a teacher, the slapping and kicking goes on for an inordinate time; later a scene of a faculty member caressing a young boy's bare bottom is shot in a graphic manner that literally makes you sick. Perhaps that's Hwang's intent, to show the heinousness of the crimes, to not let us shy away from just how ghastly the tortures inflicted on the young deaf students of a special ed school in Mujin truly are.

This isn't simply a work of the imagination either. Cong's serialized internet sensation The Crucible was based on true events: From 2000 to 2003, five teachers and the principal of Gwangju Inhwa School raped or otherwise sexually assaulted at least nine of their students, with nary one of the perpetrators receiving a heavy sentence. To the contrary, some of the teachers eventually returned to their jobs. To its credit, the film remedied that somewhat as the public outcry following its release resulted in a resurrection of the case and stiffer punishments for some of those involved. Helmed by Gong Yoo as the new teacher who discovers the crimes and Jeong Yu-mi as the human rights activist who joins his fight in court, Silenced is important for what it accomplished. I imagined it may have also ruined the life of Jang Gwang who is so creepy as a pair of twin pedophiles that I can imagine people spitting at him on the street, his portrayal of unrepentant perverts is so complete.

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