[FOUNTAIN]A cynic shows emotionSome people dislike the movie director Liom Sang-su because they say he is a cold cynic who focuses too much on controversial subjects. Unquestionably, Mr. Liom chooses controversial themes. First there was his debut film “Dinner for Single Females,” about the sex lives of single women. Then came “Love Affairs of a Family,” in which the members of a family are involved in secret love affairs. Then he directed “The People of that Time,” a movie that describes in detail the day when President Park Chung Hee was assassinated. All of these movies were controversial, but some say Mr. Liom’s cynicism is an honest response to the diseased society in which we live.
Mr. Liom’s new movie, “The Old Garden,” will soon be released. The film is set in the 1980s, between the end of the 70s dictatorship (“The People of That Time”) and the weakening of family ties that accompanied greater promiscuity in the 90s (“Love Affairs of a Family”). It is a story about Hyun-woo, an activist who falls in love with an art teacher, Yoon-hee, while he is being chased by the police. This movie is his first film made about the “political struggle of the 80s.”
Mr. Liom, who is a member of the 386 generation himself, displays his cynicism in this film. “The Old Garden” is based on the novel by Hwang Suk-young, but Mr. Liom offers a bold reinterpretation. The role of Yoon-hee is expanded in the film and in some ways she becomes the main character. Although she says she hates the repression of the Gwangju democratic movement, her passion is not wholly political, but is fuelled by her “wish for something exciting to happen in this dull country life.” That is the reason she helps Hyun-woo to hide. The movie shows the violence of the 80s through the eyes of Yoon-hee, and she values love more than politics.
However, the virtue of the movie is that it transcends attacks on 80s values and the 386 generation that is now in power. This movie urges reconciliation between eras. The main character, Yoon-hee, does not regard herself as a scapegoat. She lives as a single mother and accepts her situation for what it is.
In this manner, “The Old Garden” introduces a new form of 80s archetype ― a human being that chooses tolerance over conflict, who is not tied to a fixed period of time. Hence, the movie is a discovery of a hidden legacy from the 80s. This time, the cynicism of Mr. Liom is the main ingredient of the deep emotional impression that this movie offers to the viewers. Regarding the movie, Mr. Liom confidently stated, “Politics can be a very boring subject, however, this movie will help you to do away with that bias.” Not many people will be able to refute that.
*The writer is a culture and sports desk writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sung-hee
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?