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[Sitting on a rubber tire in his old school playground]
When I was a kid I always sat alone in the playground after the other boys had gone. Thinking about my late mother, it struck me that we'd all disappear in the end... my father, my sister, all my best friends.
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I was very happy and at the same time quite surprised by other positive comments written by non-Koreans below. This movie is amazingly heartshaking, and shows very 'sad but warm' view toward life which is typical to Korean people. I thought other foreigners would not understand this delicate feeling and under-rate this quiet film as a boring one, but I was wrong. The attraction of this film might be hard to avoid to foreigners, too. (Even without subtitle...)
I would like to mention some points others have missed. Of course, this film depicts love between a man and a woman. However, the very theme is way beyond that. Actually, it is about time, value of remembrance, and death. In this film, the focus is not on the 'love affair' between two people. As some pointed out, they do not kiss, they do not hug each other, even without holding hands. So love itself is not completed (whether positively or negatively) in the film. Rather, what haunts Jungwon (a leading actor) is his impending death. He's running out of time, he can't hold it, leaving a few behind including his father and of course, Darim (a metermaid). So the problem is how he can face the death and leave something valuable in his short life, not how he can make love with Darim.
This kind of theme sounds very familiar to us. There are lots of movies regarding patients with uncurable disease such as 'Love Story'. However, what makes this film outstanding is the way Jungwon deals his death. He is a loser, but tried to do his best while he's alive, IN A SILENT WAY. He does not tell anybody around him about his death. He hides something in his mind but without rage, hate, vengeance. He just tried to do best while he was alive. This limited communication and obedience to fate is the typical mindset of Koreans and the point most Western people don't understand or at best, misunderstand.
This theme is very effectively expressed by the director of this film (surprisingly, his debut). Some say he's much influenced by Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro, who directed Tokyo Story. Indeed, I remember I read in some magazine that the director himself admitted he was influenced by Ozu. I'm not that knowledged to analyze his style comparing to Ozu's, but they have some in common and some not. Low angle and static camera, especially remind us Ozu's style. But, in terms of theme again, this Korean director seems to have somewhat warmer and hopeful vision.
It is expressed concisely with Jungwon's last photograph. Very well done and really heartbreaking scene, I think. Actually, the director first had the idea of this film when he participated the funeral of a very famous Korean folk singer who died young of mysterious suicide. They say he saw the photograph of the singer at the funeral and thought of a film on death and remembrance. (And possibly hope for the remnants, I think...)
I highly recommend this film to anybody who has deep interest in film art as well as Korean culture. This film, in my opinion, can be rivaled with other movies like Tokyo story, and a sort of American Beauty. It is that great if without language barrier. DVD version is going to be out in the market this February, so it might be a little help for foreigners with English subtitle.
26 of 26 people found this review helpful.
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