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The Piper ("Sonmin")

  • South Korea
  • 2015
  • 107 mins
  • DCP
  • Korean
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection: Vancouver International Film Festival 2015, Busan International Film Festival 2015

“Poetically macabre” - James Mudge, EASTERN KICKS

“Engrossing and entertaining” - Pierce Conran, TWITCHFILM

The Piper from Festival Fantasia on Vimeo.

In the aftermath of the war, humble widower Woo-ryong and his son Young-nam are journeying by foot to Seoul, where the penniless musician believes he can get treatment for the boy’s illness. One morning, they notice an inconspicuous path off the mountain road, and on impulse Woo-ryong follows it. It leads them to a small, nameless village where their arrival is met with apprehension. The village leader affords them hospitality, if not a warm welcome. When it comes out that the town is plagued with rats, Woo-ryong — whose lively pipe-playing seems to have a compelling effect on animals — offers to rid the village of the awful infestation. A deal is struck and the deed is done, but deception is afoot and a nightmare has only just begun.

A haunting, horror-stained fable with the uncanny clarity of a lucid dream, THE PIPER plays a memorable new variation on a long-familiar refrain. Award-winner Ryu Seung-ryong (MIRACLE IN CELL NO. 7) leads an excellent cast, including HAN GONG-JU’s Chun Woo-hee as a troubled young shaman, in making the telling of the tale all the more vivid. There are political allusions to be found in THE PIPER, and certainly a bitter reflection on venality, cruelty and collective guilt, but Kim Gwang-tae, making his feature-length directorial debut, allows them to simply be self-evident as he carefully fleshes out his inspired revisiting of the Grimm Brothers’ dark fable of doublecross and dire retribution. Rich in atmosphere and rising dread, THE PIPER’s lure may prove irresistible.

— Rupert Bottenberg