Silenced (film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Promotional poster

Originally titled Dogani, this 2009 Korean novel and 2011 Film of the Book is based on the true story of the litany of physical and sexual abuses committed against the pupils of a Gwangju school for the hearing-impaired between 2000 and 2005. The film drew millions of viewers and sparked national outrage in South Korea, resulting in the introduction of tougher legislation to deal with sex crimes.

Kang In-ho (Gong Yoo) is a newly arrived art teacher at the Benevolence Academy for hearing-impaired children in the city of Mujin. He quickly notices something is amiss at his new workplace. He is casually ordered to pay a bribe to receive his post (in front of a complacent local Police Inspector Jang), and most worrying of all, the children he is assigned to teach are withdrawn, fearful, and frequently sport cuts and bruises. When he eventually gains the trust of eight-year-old Jin Yu-ri, she leads him to horrific sight - that of caretaker Yoon Ja-ae savagely beating eleven-year-old orphan Kim Yeon-doo, and when he alerts human rights campaigner Seo Yu-jin, the two quickly discover the extent of physical and sexual abuses committed against the children by their educators. They then proceed to collect testimonials from Yu-ri, Yeon-doo, and a third student, thirteen-year-old Min-su, in order to bring the abusers to justice, but find themselves blocked at every turn by Jang, foot-dragging bureaucrats, and Headmaster Lee's Christian congregation.

So as not to be confused with the play of the same name or its film adaptation, The Crucible was released under the title Silenced in the English-speaking world.

Tropes used in Silenced (film) include:
  • Acting for Two: The Lee twins are both portrayed by Jang Gwang.
  • Affirmative Action Girl: Human rights campaigner With Attitude, Seo Yu-jin.
  • Anger Born of Worry: The normally easy-going In-ho flies into an panic-fuelled temper when he spots Yu-ri perched perilously on her third-floor bedroom window-ledge. Unfortunately he frightens the life out of her when he pulls her back into the room.
  • Boarding School of Horrors
  • Break the Cutie: They come pre-broken, as In-ho quickly discovers.
  • Broken Bird: Min-su is the closest example (and a rare male one, at that), having become cynical and by turns defiant and passive since the suicide of his little brother.
  • Calling The Old Woman Out: In-ho's mother objects to him "stirring up trouble", as she calls it, and when she admonishes him during the trial for looking after deaf orphans in place of his own child, he replies that he wouldn't be fit to call himself a father if he abandoned children who needed his help. He then leads Yeon-doo by the hand into the courtroom.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Yoon's dispassionate violence against Yeon-doo, which results in the latter being hospitalised, definitely counts.
  • Crapsack World: Essentially, South Korea, according to the film. Routine violence against children in schools, a less-than-accommodating attitude towards the disabled (to put it mildly), institutionalised corruption and a soft approach to sexual abuse are placed on display with no punches pulled.
  • Creepy Twins: Headmaster Lee Gang-bok and assistant headmaster Lee Gang-seok, both of whom inflict horrific sexual abuse on female students.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: On top of the routine physical and sexual abuse inflicted upon them by their teachers, Yeon-doo is an orphan and Min-su's parents are absent. Also, as we eventually learn, Kang In-ho himself, whose wife committed suicide a year before the events of the film.
  • Dirty Cop: Inspector Jang is quite happy to allow Headmaster Lee to extort money from his new employee in front of him. Which actually seems downright benevolent once we learn that he is also fully aware of the goings-on at the school.
  • Driven to Suicide: Young-soo, in an aversion of Infant Immortality. In the first scene of the film. His older brother Min-soo also kills himself and their abuser, after the latter walks out of court with a slap on the wrist.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Yun Ja-ae, who tortures students for disobedience and, quite frankly, looks like she's been dead for five years.
  • Evil Gloating: The school staff, frequently. Just in case you're not sure that they are all Complete Monsters.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Headmaster Lee in particular. He conducts himself with all the courtesy and deportment one would expect of a respected church elder - and several minutes into his first scene, demands a bribe from In-ho before he'll employ him.
  • Forced to Watch: In a flashback, Park is shown raping Min-su's little brother as he watches helplessly from the other side of a locked door. Park subsequently rapes Min-su as well.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Yu-jin, though given her line of work, she usually has a very good reason. Usually.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: That scene between Headmaster Lee and Yeon-doo. You know the one.
  • Lady Macbeth: Yun, oh so very much.
  • Naive Newcomer: In-ho.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Within the first 20 minutes of the film, we see Park Bo-hyeon beating his student Min-su with his fists and feet, and the caretaker, Yoon Ja-ae, shoving Yeon-doo head-first into a washing machine for being out of bed at night. And it gets worse.
  • Not Blood Siblings: The caretaker, Ja-ae, is the headmaster's adoptive sister. And his lover.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Yeon-doo receives a lion's share of beatings and rapes, to the point that she is eventually hospitalised. As an orphan, she is particularly defenceless against this treatment. Truth in Television, as child abusers are notoriously good at picking out vulnerable victims.
  • Paedo Hunt: Where the hell are you when we need you? Averted, sadly.
  • Parental Abandonment: Min-su's mother's whereabouts are unknown, according to the school database, and considering the mental state of his father, it's implied she has abandoned them both. Also implied in the case of Yu-ri, as her parents are never mentioned onscreen and she is fostered at the end of the film.
  • Pedophile Priest: Headmaster Lee Gang-bok, who has repeatedly raped both Yu-ri and Yeon-doo, is the Presbyterian equivalent - an elder.
  • Playing Against Type: Gong Yoo is better known for his lead roles in romantic comedies, and was initially reluctant to accept the part of In-ho as he was worried he wouldn't have to skill to carry a role of this depth.
  • Politically-Incorrect Villain: Park and the Lee twins, who routinely ridicule the hearing-impaired children in their care, and claim their physical disabilities cause them to be "mentally deficient" or "not like normal people".
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film actually tones down much of the abuse as portrayed in the book.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Min-su has a Missing Mom and a severely mentally disabled father, and so is cared for by his grandmother.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Ja-ae's first scene has her dressed in red and black . . . and torturing Yeon-doo.
  • Sadist Teacher: In-ho is pretty much the only non-abusive teacher shown onscreen.
  • Siblings in Crime: The Lee twins. And, by adoption, Yun Ja-ae.
  • The Speechless: The schoolchildren, in more ways than one.
  • Taking You with Me: After the perpetrators walk free, Min-su kills himself and his rapist by throwing them both onto the train tracks where his younger brother killed himself to escape Park's abuse.
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: Yu-jin's hairstyle of choice during most of the movie, which suits her demeanour.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Yu-ri jams herself into a corner in this fashion when In-ho comes into her room, assuming he's trying to molest her.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Horrifically, the beatings of the children occasionally take place in the crowded faculty room, where no-one raises any objections or raises their head from their work. They're that accustomed to the casual brutality.
  • Villainous Incest: Yun and the headmaster, albeit Not Blood Siblings.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Lee twins are respected members of the Christian community, and the sons of the founder of the Benevolence Academy, (originally a charitable endeavour on the part of the elder Lee), and play up their reputations as benefactors of the poor, disabled children. It works, God dammit!
  • Would Hurt a Child: A disabled child at that.