[NOTEBOOK]'Oasis' a haven for film lovers

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[NOTEBOOK]'Oasis' a haven for film lovers

I was heavy-hearted for two reasons after seeing Lee Chang-dong's "Oasis" on its Aug. 15 premier. One was the movie's deep social message, and the other was my concern that another well-made film would be missed by the public.

After its first week, "Oasis" was surpassed at the box office only by the Hollywood blockbuster "Minority Report." Yet, despite a fairly strong opening, "Oasis" was pulled from several screens after two weeks.

Some observers said that the movie's failure was inevitable, saying that even a formidable director such as Mr. Lee could not succeed with such a heavy movie during the summer.

However, after three weeks, "Oasis" toppled "Minority Report," which had opened earlier and led the box office for five weeks. Quiet approval was voiced by audiences mature enough to digest the movie. What was, perhaps, more unexpected was the fact that the prime audience was in its 20s.

Of course, the well-crafted narrative may have been what attracted knowledgeable young audiences. The comedy and element of fantasy could have also drawn the younger crowd.

Yet, this does not mean that the mutual understanding between a socially inept man and a woman, whose communication relies on uttered "ah's" and "uh's" due to a physical impairment, would have been enough to attract an audience.

Someone described "Oasis" as having the saddest and most beautiful love scene ever made. The novelist-turned-director throws an "oasis shock" at the audience, as the title alludes, making viewers stop short in their laughter and fall into utter silence when ending credits appear.

The movie is a story of a man named Hong Jong-du, played by Seol Gyeung-gu, and a woman named Han Gong-ju, played by Moon So-ri. Jong-du, who has just got out of jail, comes to live at his brother's house. All he hears is his sister-in-law screaming how much she doesn't like him.

Gong-ju is incapable of doing anything without the help of others. She spends entire days in her room, passing time by making the light reflected off a mirror dance on the walls.

In society's viewpoint, Jong-du is "trash" and Gongju is like an "animal." Jong-du visits Gong-ju's house after getting out of jail. He, the "trash," tries to rape Gong-ju. However, he fails when Gong-ju falls into an "animal-like" faint. Somehow, after the incident, the two grow closer. They begin to call each other "The General" and "Your Highness" when riding the subway and frolicking in love. However, they find their love interrupted by people who are even more like "trash" and "animals."

In one scene, Jong-du climbs a tree in front of Gong-ju's house, screaming and cutting branches because he knows that Gong-ju is afraid of the shadows cast in her room by the tree. Gong-ju turns up the volume of her radio to send Jong-du the message that she loves him. Jong-du goes back to jail, and his letter is read in narrative as the scene floats back to Gong-ju's room with the sunlight shining in.

The writer is the culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Huh Eui-do

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