Korea | 2007 | 110min | 35mm | COLOR | Drama | Musical
Dong-ho and Song-hwa are separately adopted by a traditional singer and grow up as siblings. Dong-ho plays the traditional drum and Song-hwa sings; together with their stepfather, they travel around performing at parties. When Dong-ho comes of age he leaves home, tired of poverty, but his secret feelings towards Song-hwa linger. After a few years, Dong-ho finds Song-hwa only to hear that she became blind because their father deliberately gave her harmful medicine. He gets infuriated thinking that their father must have blinded her out of his obsession for her as a woman. Not long after, their father passes away and Song-hwa disappears. Dong-ho joins a traditional performance troupe where he meets a singer named Dan-shim. He lives with her but keeps following traces of Song-hwa. In the meantime, the popularity of traditional Korean music dies away. Director Im Kwon-taek’s 100th film starts with the story of traditional singers, then overlaps the life of singing with that of human beings, does not separate singing from humans until the film finally ends with pure song. The film’s message that art and life are meant to resemble each other has sorrow in it, but its perspective tries to distant itself from this sentiment. Temperance and ellipsis caused by this attitude bring tension. Simply and rather coolly presented singing is as equally important as the characters. In the end, the film itself arrives at the intersection where art and life meet.
Born in 1936, Im Kwon-taek is one of South Korea’s most renowned film directors. Since his directorial debut in 1962 with Farewell to the Duman River, he has completed his 100 films including Mandala (1981), The Surrogate Woman (1986), and Seopyeonje (1993). Chunhyang (2000) was selected for the Competition at 2000 Cannes International Film Festival, before Chihwaseon earned him the Best Director award in 2002. Im Kwontaek was also awarded an honorary Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2005. His 101st film Hanji is in the production.