Fathers as monsters in movies, real life

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Fathers as monsters in movies, real life

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Fathers are the subject of many recent films. “The Face Reader,” “Wish” and “Hwai” evolve around the theme of fathers. “The Face Reader,” which has attracted more than 9 million viewers, is the story of a face reader, played by Song Kang-ho, who got involved in a 1453 coup during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). He found himself in the middle of a political struggle, was manipulated by politicians and royal figures and eventually lost his son.

In fact, the innocent, powerless father is the actor’s signature character. In 2004, Song played a father who got involved in historical turmoil in “Barber of Hyoja-dong.” In the 2007 film “The Show Must Go On,” he also played a father who sends his child to study abroad with money he earned from working as a gang member.

“Wish” is based on the true story of a child rape case commonly known as the Cho Doo-soon case. Seol Kyeong-gu plays the father of the 9-year-old girl who experienced the heinous incident. Also, the tear-jerking “Miracle in Cell No. 7” attracted more than 10 million viewers with its story of fatherly love.

The five fathers in “Hwai: The Boy Who Swallowed a Monster” are quite different. They are murderous monsters, who kidnap a boy and raise him as their own. Kim Yoon-seok, who plays the leader of the crime gang, teaches the boy, “If you don’t want to see monsters, you have to become one.”

However, the son points a gun at the father when he says, “You think you are clean? Different from us? No, you are a son of monsters, so you are a monster too.” Eventually he kills the five fathers and uses them to punish the corrupt people who committed social crimes before returning to the mother who raised him. A son killing his father is an unprecedented theme in Korean cinema.

“We may not be human, but let’s not turn into monsters,” a senior screenwriter advises his junior who is obsessed with money in “On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate” in 2002. Kim Hong-jong, a sociology professor at Seoul National University, wrote that the scene best describes the materialism that has emerged as a dominant value in Korean society since the 1990s.

The fathers of the last generation had believed in “sincerity” and “humanity,” but they have now become the materialistic monsters dreaming only of stability and growth.

More than 10 years have passed, and Korean movies feature fathers as monsters. They became monsters in order to survive in the world and demand that their children follow in their footsteps. And the son punishes them all, refusing to live like the fathers and become a monster. Having swallowed the monsters, what kind of father would the boy become? It is not easy to nonchalantly enjoy “Hwai.”

*The author is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By YANG SUNG-HEE
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