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Mongryong marries the beautiful Chunhyang without telling his father, the Governor of Namwon. When his father is transferred to Seoul, Mongryong has to leave Chunhyang and finish his exams. Chunhyang, being the daughter of a courtesan, is also legally a courtesan. She is beaten and imprisoned when she refuses to obey the new Governor Byun, as she wishes to be faithful to her husband. After three years, Mongryong passes his exam and becomes an emissary to the King. He returns to Namwon, disguised as a beggar, just before Chunhyang is to be flogged to death at the governor's birthday celebration. Written by
This is a Korean film telling the story of two lovers torn apart by class. The son of a governor and the daughter of a courtesan. It has the air of a fairytale and is a very good film.
It may be difficult for some people to get into the film in the beginning if you are not familiar with pansori. Pansori is a centuries old Korean form of storytelling in which a storyteller sings the story while a drummer drums and makes short vocal sounds or words of encouragement. It is initially jarring for those of us who mostly watch American and European film, but stick with it. I first saw this in a film class and it was among two films that I wrote about for class and liked so much that I purchased on my own once the class ended.
As the film begins the viewer is placed in the position of someone watching a pansori performance. From here the film transitions from the world of Chunhyang to the pansori audience. Part of the enjoyment of the film comes from watching the reactions of the pansori audience to the story. It is akin to being in a movie theater and sharing the same experiences with everyone else watching the film.
Aside from the format, the story itself is enchanting, full of love, loyalty, and courage. The acting is very good and the actors are not bad looking themselves. The pansori performance is a song of the story so it has some poetic qualities that don't necessarily push the story forward, but are enjoyable if you are patient. All in all it is a look into Korean culture and storytelling that not many films from America, Europe, or the rest of the world do for their own cultures. Most films today just stick to the basic narrative design or are pretentious and abstract. This one creates a new experience for anyone who is willing to give it a chance.
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