Review: Untold Scandal (2003)


Directed by: Je-yong Lee | 124 minutes | drama | Actors: Mi-suk Lee, Do-yeon Jeon, Yong-jun Bae, Hyeon-jae Jo, So-yeon Lee, Ha-kyeong Kim

The letter novel ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ by Pierre Ambroise Choderlos de Laclos was received as a masterpiece when it was published in 1782. However, after the fall of the French nobility, the book was banned. That had less to do with the literary qualities of the work than with the content. The novel revealed a world of moral decay hidden behind the civilized appearance of the upper French circles. In those circles, sex was mainly a means to dispel boredom, without caring for any victims.

The novel deservedly received the recognition it deserved, not only for its literary qualities but also for its beautiful plot. It was therefore obvious that the book would be made into a film. In 1959 Roger Vadim situated ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ in Paris in the 1950s. Thirty years later, two productions followed that more faithfully followed the novel: the very successful ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ (1988) by Stephen Frears and the slightly less powerful ‘Valmont’ (1989) by Milos Forman.

The most recent adaptation is called ‘Untold Scandal’. The story has been moved to 18th century Korea, a setting that resembles the French court circles just before the revolution. Here too, behind the stoic looks and perfumed words, there is a world of lust and boredom. And here, too, a young woman who goes through life celibate is an irresistible hunting object for bored nobles.

Director Ye-jong Lee chose to leave the story largely intact, risking that his adaptation would add nothing to previous adaptations. Fortunately she does. For its brooding sensuality and beautiful locations alone, ‘Untold Scandal’ is worth checking out. In addition, this film also proves the universal character of the story. In terms of craftsmanship, there is nothing else to criticize about ‘Untold Scandal’: dialogues, actors and design are all of high quality, and the Korean actresses are also beautiful.

For film lovers who are familiar with earlier adaptations of ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’, watching this surprisingly strong film adaptation is certainly worthwhile. For those who are not yet familiar with the story, ‘Untold Scandal’ is an absolute must. The once so maligned Pierre Ambroise Choderlos de Laclos may posthumously consider himself lucky with this respectful and successful honor.

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