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The Scarlet Letter
OCTOBER 20, 2004 23:15 by Gab-Sik Kim (dunanworld@donga.com)
 
밫he woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.

This is from Genesis 3:6 of the Bible, a verse that portrays the scene where Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. The movie 밫he Scarlet Letter starts with this verse.

밫he Scarlet Letter is producer Byun Hyuk뭩 first film in four years, after he became famous for the 2000 movie 밒nterview, his first feature film, and the 1991 short film 밐omo Videocus. If a movie is compared to a style of writing, then this one is made of Byun Hyuk뭩 unique 밾andwriting. It has a bold theme, strong expression and creative style.

Kee-hoon (Han Suk-gyu) is a criminal investigator; intelligent and with animal instincts. He has a submissive wife, Soo-hyun (Uhm Ji-won), and a passionate mistress, Ga-hee (Lee Eun-joo). Kee-hoon feels guilty, yet continues to move back and forth between these two women, who also happen to be schoolmates from high school. One day Kee-hoon goes to a murder scene and there he meets Kyung-hee (Sung Hyun-a), a woman accused of murdering her husband.

밫he Scarlet Letter is the 21st Century Genesis Chapter 3. Mystery and melodrama cover the movie from the outside, but they do not mean much. This movie deals with - as Kee-hoon confesses at the beginning of the story - man뭩 desire and original nature that 뱒tarts like a joke, but cannot be turned down, and later leads to the destruction of the self. Among all recently released Korean films, this one makes the closest approach to human nature.

This movie resembles 밢ld Boy in the way it portrays an undeniable fate and expressions that go to the limit, but the density is much thicker. 밢ld Boy neutralized the intensity of the theme through screen techniques while 밫he Scarlet Letter intensified the degree of shock buy making the images stronger.

Kee-hoon, the 밃dam in this movie, is a 밷ad man. He thinks he has chosen between Ga-hee and Soo-hyun. He also thinks he has sinned against both by continuing his relationship with one while being married to another. However, what if the facts that Kee-hoon knows to be true are only the tip of the iceberg? The movie portrays him as a dual figure, both antagonist and protagonist.

The highlight of this movie is its last 20 minutes, where Adam (Kee-hoon) and Eve (Ga-hee) are trapped in the car trunk. This scene is to be remembered as one of the most shocking and intense scenes in the history of Korean film, showing the reality of a man being punished for having chosen desire. The red tones that appear in both the trunk scene and the picture that is overlapped with the scene are somewhat different. The former shows the despair of approaching death, symbolized by the blood; the red background is portrayed as a sensual quality that contains another truth.

The camera뭩 movement and the music are sticky and sweet, like the tongue of the snake that whispered to Eve. This is because of the excellent combination of Lee Jae-jin, who had worked on the music of the movies 밣eppermint Candy, 밊ailan, and 밢asis, and Byun Hyuk, who was musically talented enough to be offered a chance to learn conducting under the world famous conductor Chung Myung-hoon. Byun Hyuk actually appears in the movie as a conductor as well.

Han Suk-gyu has come back to the screen after the failure of last year뭩 film 밆ouble Agent. The low life images he has shown in the movies 밎reen Fish and 밡o.3 kept coming back, but he succeeded in powerfully portraying a complex character. The scene in which Kee-hoon goes to the murder scene while singing 밣ace Pace Mio Dio (Peace, peace O Lord in English) from the opera 밚a Forze del Destino, and spitting out foul language is acting that only Han Suk-gyu can do.

Lee Eun-joo was the tragic Eve. Not many actresses can show the difference between 뱇ustful sex and 밺espairing sex. To be released on October 29. Available for audiences over 18.

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