Movies aim to please the eyes and soul
Technically, these two highly anticipated entries to the 2015 year-end box office tell completely different stories from different periods of time.
“The Himalayas,” directed by Lee Seok-hoon of “The Pirates” (2014), is based on the true story of Korea’s most heroic mountaineer, Um Hong-gil.
It follows the story of the so-called “Human Expedition” led by Hong-gil (Hwang Jung-min), in which a group of hikers risk their lives on a journey in the Himalayas, not to reach the summit but to retrieve the body of their fellow mountaineer, Park Moo-taek (Jung Woo).
Veteran actor Choi Min-sik plays once-renowned hunter Cheon Man-deok, who refuses to lay his hands on a rifle any more.
Aside from the potential blockbuster qualities with heavyweight directors and all-star casts, these 10 billion won ($8.5 million) projects have other similarities when examined more deeply.
Technology definitely plays an indispensable role in both films.
Without it, “The Tiger” wouldn’t even have its protagonist, because the predator that shares the main role with Man-deok was entirely created with computer-generated imagery by local postproduction company 4th Creative Party, which also worked on “Snowpiercer” (2013) and “Assassination” (2015).
The production team observed a Siberian tiger kept in a Busan-based zoo for months to make note of its gestures, facial expressions and habits.
Even trivial data such as how its hair flies in the wind and how its eyes reflect the light was important to create the one-eyed, 400-kilogram (880-pound) and nearly-4-meter (13-foot) tiger and its two offsprings.
As a result, the frightening as well as graceful aspects of the tiger revered by the villagers are well presented on the big screen. Every strand of the tiger’s silky hair was captured, not to mention the natural movements of walking, running and pouncing.
“The Himalayas” also received a helping hand from advanced filming technology, including a drone.
When the crew was on location at high altitude, such as the Himalayas in Nepal and Mont Blanc in France, they used a camera drone to film the panoramic beauty of the snow-covered peaks and steep mountain ridges.
Especially in the moments of sunset and sunrise, the expansive views of orange-tinted summits touching the brightly colored sky are among the best scenes in the movie.
One way to enjoy these scenes more fully is to see the movie at a Screen X theater. As the second commercial feature-length film to be made in the Screen X format - a 270-degree viewing format where the motion picture is projected on the front screen as well as the two sided walls - the movie immerses the audience in the mountainous setting even more.
About 30 minutes of the 125-minute film are shown across all three screens.
The two movies may wear different clothes, but in the end they both convey similar messages about the virtues of humans.
In the tiger movie, Man-deok’s solid belief in not interfering with the course of the nature and refraining from his own greed and desire shines through. Even though he receives a tempting request from the Japanese military asking him to hunt down South Korea’s last remaining tiger, Man-deok stays true to his belief until the end, picking only enough medicinal herbs from the mountain to survive with his young son.
In contrast, the barbarous acts carried out by those who gave in to authority and by the Japanese military are emphasized when they end up wiping out every living creature inhabiting the mountain, using guns and even dynamites.
Man-deok’s storyline doesn’t stop at providing a touching human drama but expands further to remind the audience of the lost values once cherished by Koreans across the nation.
It is in line with director Park’s intention, as he explained at a recent press conference that he wanted to focus on “things that have disappeared in Korea after the colonial era, such as the last tiger of Joseon and the traditional way in which our people hunted tigers, finding a way to coexist.”
“The Himalayas” is more explicit and obvious in delivering its philanthropic message, as implied by the name of the “Human Expedition.”
When rescuing Moo-taek fails, he slowly succumbs to the cold at the Second Step - which is often called the death zone - then Hong-gil gathers up a crew a year later in order to find his beloved colleague’s body and take it back home.
The film emphasizes that while previous Himalayan expeditions were aimed at conquering as many summits as possible, this one is born out of pure loyalty and love.
BY JIN EUN-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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