Affection, A Bittersweet Tale by Bae Chang-hoDirector Bae Chang-ho (47), after a four-year hiatus following "Love Story," returns with "Affection"(Jeong), a film which unfolds at the end of the Chosun kingdom in 1910 and finally ends in the post-war 1960s. The film follows the harsh life of one woman through turbulent times. The movie title, which at first glance seems at odds with the movie, is in fact very appropriate, capturing the essence of the movie.
Through Bae's lense, the harsh, brutal life of women, which feminists see as a vestige of the past that needs to be discontinued, shines with an affection that society desperately needs.
His film is not an advocate for the social structures that oppress women, but rather, it highly values women's capacity to show affection regardless of the severity of their circumstances. Soonie, actress Kim Yu-mi, married to an eleven-year old boy at the age of sixteen, lives with her strict mother-in-law for ten years. Her husband, who went to the capital to study, comes home with a new 'friend', a thoroughly modern woman compared to her traditional upbringing and appearance. Upon spotting her husband embracing the 'modern' woman in the fields, she feels not resentment, but instead finds the scene beautiful. Leaving the house and going deep into the mountains, Soonie meets Duk-soon (played by actor Kim Myeong-kon), an earthenware merchant. But, the happiness does not last for long. Soonie, who again must leave and lead a harsh life on her own, takes into her home Bok-nyu, a woman who escaped after being sold as a serf to pay off her husband's gambling debts. She helps rear Bok-nyu's son like her own. Both Soonie and Bok-nyu together face life in a positive mode, showing sympathy and compassion for others though their own lives may be harsh.
Though the story unfolds in a rather simple way, the images and the music are stunningly beautiful. The four seasons are caught on film at their very best -azaleas in full bloom in Taegu's Biseul Mountains, a winding swath of the Tonggang River, fields of mature buckwheat in Kangwon Province, and snow-covered Chinburyong. In the scene where Soonie and Bok-nyu's now-grown son sit on the wood floor of their country home and talk over a card game, strains from Park Jae-ran's song "In the southern village over the mountain" cascade out over the audience, invoking an overwhelming sense of family.
The movie opens June 17th.
by Chung Myung-jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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