Showing posts with label afterlife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label afterlife. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Busan 2020 Review: VESTIGE Ponders the Ineffable with Grace and Mystery

Part of MKC's coverage of the 25th Busan International Film Festival.

By Pierce Conran

Two Korean masters of arthouse cinema join forces for one of Busan's most intriguing offerings this year. Commissioned by the Muju Film Festival, Vestige features two mid-length films from Kim Jong-kwan (Worst Woman, 2016) and Jang Kun-jae (A Midsummer's Fantasia, 2014), which both deal with death and the afterlife in lyrical and understated ways. Though this light brush with horror is new territory for them, both directors retain elements of their trademark styles, while also hinting at new stylistic directions in their work.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Romantic Heaven (Ro-maen-tik He-beun) 2011

Jang Jin’s 10th feature, Romantic Heaven, is an interwoven omnibus film which features three linked stories that deal with themes such as death, love, fate, and the afterlife. Despite the heavy, morbid themes, the proceedings, given Jang’s involvement, take on a predictably unpredictable light air. It is a quirky film that reminds me both of Park Chan Wook’s I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) and P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia (1999), the first for its vibrant and calm representation of heaven, and the second for its structure and one lone supernatural occurrence which will be obvious to those who have seen both.

The title points to two themes, love and death, and approaches them from numerous angles. In the first part, titled 'Mother', a girl fears for her mother who will die if she does not receive a bone marrow transplant. The doctors indentify a donor but as luck would have it he is wanted for the murder of his girlfriend. He is on the run and the girl befriends the detectives that are after him. The second segment, named 'Wife', features a lawyer who has lost his wife and a man who has just been released form prison who wants revenge. The third segment, 'A Girl', is the story of a young taxi driver whose grandfather suffers from dementia. While the man is clearly keen on the girl from the first part, she is not the girl of the title. She is in fact the grandfathers long lost love. The fourth part, 'Romantic Heaven', begins when the taxi driver gets in a car crash and ends up in heaven, in this concluding part of the film, it is also by far the lengthiest, all of the strands come together and we are transported back and forth through heaven and earth.

Death is difficult to handle and each grieves in their own fashion. Through my experience of Korean cinema, Koreans seem to take the mourning process very seriously and often wail, weep, and cry at funerals. The released con’s first stop is his fathers grassy grave. He weeps bitterly on his knees and his friend nonchalantly stands nearby, exhibiting what may seem like callousness at his friend’s misery to a western viewer but what is most likely a force of habit as it is the norm. Each character in this film deals with death differently, from the numbness of the widower, the grandmother who can’t let go of her grandson, to the daughter who, while sad, finds beauty and something to smile about at the moment of expiration.

Creative production design
There is much in Romantic Heaven that I wasn’t quite able to grasp, like the meaning of the headphones and the CDs, although the tightly woven narratives clearly point to meaningful conclusions. As is often the case with omnibus films many elements become contrived as they are forced to fit together, a necessary evil when it works. Jang’s direction, as always, is masterful. The film looks great and is the product of potent creativity. Not one of his best works and probably a little less accessible than his past efforts but as always he displays why he is one of the most consistently worthwhile auteurs in South Korean cinema.