'Silenced' is harrowing

A recent hit in Korea, "Silenced" ("Dogani") is based on a true story in which administrators at a school for deaf children received extremely light penalties for sexually abusing their young charges.

In the film, a teacher (Gong Yoo) uncovers the awful goings-on and enlists a local human rights worker (Jung Yu-mi) to seek justice. They come to realize that officials are more concerned with sweeping the problem under the rug than bringing vicious predators to justice.

The problem is that director Hwang Dong-Hyuk goes to such wretched lengths to sensationalize the depictions of the crimes — lingering on the testimony of the children as they describe what was done to them with parallel reenactments — that "Silenced" is not a cautionary wake-up call but a sadistic, unsavory document. It's a child-abuse drama with the look and feel of a horror film.

"Silenced" has become a fulcrum in South Korea for a broader conversation about sexual abuse and its victims, yet the film is so brutal and demoralizing that it does a disservice to the very issue on which it is attempting to shine a cleansing spotlight.




"Silenced." No MPAA rating. In Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes. At CGV Cinema and Century 20 Huntington Beach.