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(Korean with English subtitles) Helmed by one of Korea's leading directors, Hong Sang-soo, Jisook joins two of her girlfriends for a holiday in Korea's Kangwon Province. But in an eerie twist of fate, her former lover, Sangkwon, plans a getaway for the same destination, where tragedy brings them together once again. Written by
Unfamiliar with the works of Hong Sang-soo, I started watching 'The Power of Kangwon Province'. In the early scenes of the film, you see a microphone appearing, used for recording sound. I paused the movie briefly and checked on Google, just to make sure that this was really a picture made by a critically acclaimed director. After Google gave me the confirmation, I finished the movie in one go, satisfied about my first encounter with director Hong.
'The Power of Kangwon Province' is a South Korean drama, first released in 1998 and is written and directed by Hong Sang-soo. This film was Hong's second and other praised movies by Hong are 'The Day a Pig fell into a Well' and 'Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors'. The movie stars Oh Yun-hong as student Ji-sook and Baek Jong-hak as college professor Sang-kwon. I also recognised Kim Yoo-suk as a policeman. Kim played one of the leading roles in 'The Isle'.
The Kangwon province, with mountains and forests, is located in the north eastern part of South Korea and the demilitarised zone splits up the area and continues into North Korea. This movie however is not about the Korean divide, but about relationships. 'The Power of Kangwon Province' tells actually two stories. The first part of the movie is about Ji-sook, who is on a trip to the Kangwon province with her two girlfriends, where she strikes up a fling with a policeman. The second part of the film involves the story of Sang-kwon, a husband and father, who visits the mountains of Kangwon for leisure together with a friend. Both men end up in the arms of a prostitute. During the movie, by coincidence both stories cross each other and at the end of the movie director Hong connects the two stories together.
The style of filming, editing and use of music is very minimalistic, but the end result is intriguing. Every camera shot is a steady shot that doesn't zoom in or out or moves sideways, followed by a hard cut to the next shot. Music only plays at the beginning and ending. By the way that Hong is filming, you really feel connected to the actors and therefore closer to Hong's dim view on relationships between man and a woman. You feel the pain and sorrow of Ji-sook when she returns from Kangwon by bus and cries and cries and cries. Even the sex scenes feel so sad and basically Hong managed to remove the sex out of the sex scenes.
It is unclear to me why Hong left in the scenes where the microphone is noticeable, as mentioned in the introduction. 'The Power of Kangwon Province' is however worth watching for its unusual minimalistic style and the underlying depressing note of the film. If you are in a positive mood, then I would recommend you to wait watching this movie, as it affects your mood significantly, but if you have the chance to see this picture, please do so. Overall rating: 6.9
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