Back in 1962, Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek came to the obscure island of Sorok, way on the southern tip of Korea from their home country of Austria. As nuns, Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek were driven by their desire to do good works for the less fortunate, and came to Sorok Island to care for the sick. That’s pretty much all they did for forty four years. Then they went back to Austria, spending the rest of their days in a nursing home.
All I could really get from “Marianne and Margaret” was that they were decent human beings who devoted themselves to public service. Even now I struggle to try and describe how Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek even differ from each other very much. Aside from the minutae of their lives in Austria, as described by director Yoon Se-young, they’re just a couple of random foreigners who were very concerned about the welfare of the people on Sorok Island.
Even in the present day Marianne Suede and Margaret Pisarek are surprisingly indifferent to their own life story. We don’t see any desire to go back, mostly because an old woman isn’t as much help to the sick as a younger or middle-aged woman would be. Now granted, a lot of this is just proper modesty. Nuns aren’t the kind of people who brag about how great they are for adhering to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
But we also don’t get very many flashy testimonials either. Which I suppose is more a problem with the actions presented than it is with the moral depth of those actions. While a doctor can gain worldwide fame with a single complex exotic surgery, nurses are unsung heroes who minister to quite a few more people than most doctors do, yet never receive proper accolades because long term care does not, by definition, produce quick impressive results.
I suspect cultural reasons are another factor in why “Marianne and Margaret” bored me so much. Being a citizen of Western culture, I pretty much take it for granted that yes, nuns travel the whole world ministering to the sick. Although I don’t know, was Mother Theresa not famous in South Korea? I honestly don’t even know. The question “which random foreign people were famous twenty years ago” isn’t a question that can be easily asked and answered.
Likewise, it felt kind of weird to me how “Marianne and Margaret” is taking the whole “save the starving undeveloped world” tone when South Korea is no longer a part of the starving underdeveloped tone. Especially when this documentary was itself developed by South Koreans. I don’t know- maybe director Yoon Se-young is just expressing, on the part of a large number of people, sincere gratitude to “Marianne and Margaret” for helping suffering people in their time of need. Maybe I’m just being cynical. All I know is, I really just couldn’t see the point to this movie.
Review by William Schwartz
“Marianne and Margaret” is directed by Yoon Se-yeong.
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