I love a mini-series as a melodrama that tells a story in the long movie format, as opposed to those that tell different stories in the same setting (like Grey's Anatomy, Mad Men and to a lesser extent Damages, Breaking Bad, and Revenge that change the story at times while keeping to a general story). In this regard, I have discovered some gems in the South Korean TV mini-series of recent years.
The basic melodrama is the oft repeated formula: Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl Back. This me recur in the same story. Human relations can be complex even if only the boy and girl are involved, but this complexity increases as more people are involved. If personality dynamics are properly depicted in a valid manner, and if the production is skillful, powerful emotions can be evoked in the viewer. In this way we can live many lifetimes through movies, in our one lifetime - greatly enriching our incarnate experience. These South Korean productions (seen on Netflix streaming) are first class with excellent production and direction, some terrific casting and acting (particularly from some of the females who give some matchless world class performances), brilliant musical accompaniment, and staging. What makes these so good is the way they skillfully evoke deep emotion in the viewer. South Korean movie making is superb - world class.
However, the following caveats must be considered by the USA viewer. They are subtitled and some people hate this. The South Korean cultural norms, values and sanctions may sometimes seems silly or old fashioned to the USA viewer. The families are close knit and decisions by an individual may be subject to family approval. Social distance is maintained where formal speech is used, and personal speech forms are reserved for close friends or family. There is a strong work ethic and community cooperation/unity - sometimes reminiscence of a old Frank Capra film.
Most importantly, in order for the sometimes complicated sub-plots to work, people fail to communicate with each other as might be expected, keeping many in the dark as to what others are doing, and this leads to misunderstandings and error judgments of some people, that sometimes seem to be unlikely by USA cultural standards. The viewer may wonder at times why good but trusting people are so easily manipulated and deceived by bad and selfish people, but con artists do often succeed (just look at politicians for example). However this poetic license of improbability is needed to develop the story - just accept it as occurring even though unlikely at times. Taking these factors into account Will help you become involved and emotionally engrossed. It was hard t for me to quit watching at times so I binged watched.
I would rank these as follows but tastes differ and your rankings might not agree: 1 - 4 (hard to say which is best)
When a Man Loves
That Winter, The Wind Blows
5. Five Fingers
6. The Scent of a Woman
7. The Great Queen Seondeok
8. A Hundred Years Inheritance
9. Lie To me
10. Roof Top Prince
11. Dr. Jin
12. The Great Doctor
The Great Queen Seondeok is mainly a historical/political melodrama depicting the struggle of opposing (good vs. evil) factions. One faction is lead by a ruthless Machivellian leader (Mishil) representing government control both of government officials and citizens, based on manipulating them with fear. The other faction has a good leader who wants power and freedom to shift from government to the people (control by their choice instead of governmental dictates, ownership of land by farmers instead of tenant farmers working for the rich), and who appeals to the hope and good nature of others. Another theme is women's rights in a male dominated world. There is action, comedy relief, love, hate, revenge, subversion - all the elements of a good historical melodrama.
Mishal is the evil leader and features a stunning performance. The most colorful character is Bidam, who like Mishal, is a complex character and brilliantly portrayed. Bidam is introduced after the series has gone on for some time, as a country bumpkin who is easily underestimated by others. In one scene he picks his nose and then puts it in his mouth, which tainted his image in my mind. This series at times offers some brilliant psychological insights, such as Mishil saying "Humans can not live without believing in fantasy", as in liberal idealism (world peace, income equality without degrading the economy, big government that works efficiently, etc.) that can never be achieved. The ending is quite powerful, emphasizing the loneliness of a ruler of a nation.
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