Hong Explores Relationships in "Virgin Stripped Bare"The black-and-white film "Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors," by director Hong Sang-soo, is the story of a woman and the love and lust two men feel for her. This, however, is merely the overall story line and is far from the movie's only theme.
The stories in Hong's movies are usually used as camouflage and the story itself does not even follow the usual four steps of composition. Thus, they may seem strange to the general audience.
Similar to "The Day a Pig Fell into a Well," in which a third-rate writer wanders between a married woman and an unmarried one, and "The Power of Kangwon Province," a film about the love between a married man and an unmarried woman, this movie also delves into relationships that are not generally accepted. In this film, it is the process people from different walks of life with varying tastes go through just to get what they want that is drawn in detail.
The story is told in fragments and according to the memories of the characters, interpreted from their own views. There are five parts in all, the first and third are the man's memories, the second and fourth the woman's, and the fifth is where their memories meet.
Hong's rebellious attitude towards conventional moviemaking can be seen everywhere, from the title to the smallest details. In "The Power of Kangwon Province" Hong overthrows the conventional image of Kangwon Province as a tourist attraction, and in this movie the female character's name 'Su-jung' is used not only for the character but as a symbol of virginity.
The love scene where the male character yells another woman's name sends shivers down audience members' spines with its realistic descriptiveness. It also questions the common belief that sincere "love" does not exist in reality, a world where it is so lightly and easily discussed.
Critics have said that Hong "captures the tiniest details of everyday life." He follows the theory that you can see the whole by looking at a detail, and this movie certainly has a modernistic feel to it. Though Hong asserts that he is not interested in the "storyline as a whole," it is true that a larger plot does exist. Due to this aspect of his moviemaking, it is rather worrisome as to how long he will be able to follow his present method of moviemaking, and if he does, whether it will become stale, being mere repetition.
"Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors" is full of repetitious forms and popular jokes, giving the film a comical feeling. In order to become a great artist it seems that Hong still has a long way to go.
by Lee Young-ki