= Korean Romeo and Juliet
Reviewer: The Rebecca Review.com from Washington State
"I try to examine serious aspects of Korean life and
not just aim for commercial success. I try to make films about
the real life of Korea." ~ Im Kwon-Taek
If "keeping promises" and "writing
promises" intrigues you, you will be seduced by the
romantic nature of this movie. This movie reminds me of Romeo
and Juliet only because Chunhyang and Mongryong wed secretly and
enjoy a brief, yet passionate interlude before fate sends them
on separate paths.
Mongryong decides he wants to marry Chunhyang and within a
few hours he has succeeded in his mission. As Chunhyang spreads
out her orange skirt, the governor's son, Mongryong (Cho Seung
Woo), takes a brush, dips it in ink as dark as death and writes
symbols that represent: "Like the sun and the moon, my love
will never change."
Chunhyang (Lee Hyo Jung) is full of sweet innocence and
although she is the daughter of a courtesan, seems rather shy in
the world of men. She is reluctant, but then finds her true
ecstasy in marriage. Just when she has discovered this new world
of pleasure, her husband must leave Namwon with his father and
study for an exam while living in Soeul.
After Mongryong leaves her to follow his career, we realize
how vulnerable Chunhyang is without the protection of her
husband. The corrupt governor (Lee Jung Hun) has heard of
Chunhyang's beauty and decides to maker her one of his
courtesans. At one point, the brutality is rather shocking, yet
the violence does seem to have a point and this makes the impact
much stronger. We cannot help but admire Chunhyang's devotion to
While this movie is stunning in its beauty and romantic
appeal, the facts are, this is a cultural experience. Im Kwon
Taek has taken the ancient operatic tradition of pansori
(storytelling) and fused it with a modern film. He believes
pansori is the best form of traditional Korean art and believes
Korea is neglecting their own music and culture.
In this movie, Im Kwon-Taek seems to want to create a
marriage between pansori and visual intoxication. The entire
300-year old fold tale is narrated by Cho Sang Hyan, who is
accompanied by a gosu playing a drum (puk).
The movie is exquisite in places, but the voice of the
narrator was at times rather jarring in contrast with the
vibrant images and sensitively romantic moments. There were
times when the drama did not need to be heightened. The images
were powerful enough.
The viewer must at times be as patient as Chunhyang. We wait
for the quiet moments with a sense of anticipation, while
Chunhyang waits for her lover. It would have been nice to have
an abundance of silence in this movie as the story almost
unfolds on its own.
There is a moment when snow is falling and Chunhyang is
thinking of Mongryong in a scene of mystical beauty. The colors,
costumes and scenes of nature are exquisite. I loved the little
"chest" that held the food and had little drawers and
a place for a drink. Quite an elaborate little lunch box.
This retelling of a Korean Classic is a combination of fading
ancient art forms, modern movie making and universal themes that
transcend cultural boundaries. It is a story of eternal
devotion, youthful passion and lyrical promises.
I didn't see the actions of Chunhyang as a complete symbol of
undying loyalty to marriage. For me, her actions represented
undying love in impossible circumstances.
If you enjoy this movie for it's artistic
just wait until you see: The