Director Kim Ki-duk
is known as Koreas enfant terrible. This is his 10th movie, the third time he has a movie in competition in Berlin and it is his first win The Silver Bear for best Director. The prize is well deserved. With Kim Ki-duk there is not much middle of the road, you either like his films or hate them you never leave the theatre indifferent to his films.
"Samaritan Girl" is not as violent as most of his films, but you should be prepared for a tough story with no happy end in sight.
Two young schoolgirls Yeo-Jin and Jae-Young are best friends. To get money for a trip to Europe they use an unorthodox way: Jae-Young prostitutes herself with older men, while Yeo-Jin makes the arrangements, saves the money and keep watch. Trying to avoid being caught by the police Jae-Young dies. Yeo-Jin is devastated. She never understood how Jae-Young could endure having sex with perverts, but she feels a huge amount of guilt. As a way of atoning, she seeks out Jae-Youngs customers, offers them sex, accepts no money from then and even pays back the money they paid Jae-Young. Yeo-Jin lives alone with her widowed father, a police detective. He finds out, what she is doing and starts to follow her around. He then beats up the customers, without telling his daughter. However, one day he hits a customer a little too hard....
This is not an upbeat film. It addresses a problem, that has existed in Japan for some years (see the film "Bounce ko Gals"), and now is turning up in Korea: Young school girls prostitutes themselves in order to get money for the right clothes, cell phones etc. The movie is clearly on the side of the girls they are too young to realize the dangers and consequences of what they are doing. The middleaged men on the other hand many of them fathers to teenage girls themselves should know better, and Samaritan Girl does not waste any pity on them, although not all of them are seen as complete villains.
To me Korea seems to be a society, where honor is a lot more important than in most western societies today. If a daughter prostitutes herself, it shames the whole family. But as Kim Ki-duk stated on the press conference in Berlin, this is also a movie about forgiveness. "Even in a situation like this a father should still forgive his daughter", said Kim Ki-duk.