Top 25 Korean Films - No. 15

Sopyonje (Dir. Im Kwon-taek, 1993)

I’ve only seen a fraction of Im Kwon-taek’s 102 films, and though I’m a big fan of some his lesser known works, such as Wang Sib Ri, My Hometown (1976) and The Divine Bow (1979), there’s no denying the impact of his classy pansori road movie Sopyonje, frequently cited as one of the best Korean films of all time. With its quiet but piercing examination of a nation slowly abandoning and forgetting its cultural heritage, Im’s film caused a stir when initially released, becoming the most widely viewed Korean film of all time up until that point, despite never expanding beyond limited release.

A deep pain lingers under the surface of Sopyonje and its characters, a trauma that is released in the film’s achingly beautiful traditional musical sequences. The film is often seen as a cinematic representation of han, a notoriously difficult to describe Korean concept that explains the deep-seated pain of Koreans, stemming from the country’s difficult history.

Intro - 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 
15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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