Recently, a Korean film director made a sarcastic remark about this trend, at a seminar about movie sets. Jeong Jae-eun, the director of the movie “Take Care of My Cat” said that the sets in Korean movies were becoming excessively luxurious, conceptual or abstract. He maintained that a good set is one that has been developed from everyday life. He confessed to being worried that this trend might spread into life outside movies.
This is not just about movies. There is an unwritten rule about TV series ― main characters must live in lovely places. Except for a few instances, where the characters are working class, most live in luxurious homes. Their places are furnished with the latest home appliances and trendy furniture provided by sponsors. Making these sets look beautifully is regarded as so important that little consideration is given to whether, in real life, the character would be able to afford it. Viewers have become accustomed to seeing characters with average jobs living in apartments which look like luxurious hotel suites. This is accepted in TV dramas, as are scenes in which female characters go to bed without removing their make-up.
This becomes more serious in movies. Discriminating directors who pursue beautiful, perfect sets pay close attention to even small details. Therefore, interior space is presented in the movies as if it had just popped out of a style magazine. This space is so flawless that it feels unnatural. Historical movies are no exception. Buildings and properties look like those from a beautiful old painting. Historical movies with a modern touch, which are popular, compete with one another via the beauty of their settings.
Thanks to this, films have become more attractive. Everyone agrees that they are visually beautiful. The problem is, however, how well these gorgeous spaces reflect the life and emotions of the people who live in them. Some of the beautiful spaces in Korean movies look like an effort to deliver a standardized form of beauty. This is what Jeong was saying. As movies focus on luxurious sets, they tend to exclude reality and everyday life. Characters live in wonderful places with no trace of reality. Directors prefer this to the worn-out settings of the day to day life, but when movies focus on pretentious decoration, it means filmmakers have lost touch with reality.
*The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yang Sung-hee [firstname.lastname@example.org]