Thursday, 18 October 2007

Festival selection: Huhwihaji anha (No Regret, South Korea, 2006)

Director: Hee-il Leesong.

Principal cast: Han Lee, Young-Hoon Lee.

It certainly isn’t every day one gets to watch Korean films. Come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever seen a Korean film before. My knowledge of Korean drama seems to be limited to the flashbacks of the two Korean characters on ABC’s hit TV show „Lost”. And while you can still tell if the dialogue is convincing in most European languages, even you don’t understand them, simply by listening to the intonations, it is somewhat harder to do the same when it comes to Asian languages. What can seem a typical soap-opera pathos in Spanish, may well be a very respectable way of speaking in the Far East. And this is definitely one of my limitations when it comes to judging this film. Although I have found the acting rather convincing, it only applies to the visual part of it, and I’d be most interested to know what opinion Koreans themselves have on this matter.

„No Regret” is set in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, which, just like its counterparts in most other countries, draws people en masse looking for a better life, opportunities that don’t exist elsewhere in the country. So, when Sumin, one of our two protagonists, reaches the age of 18, he leaves the orphanage in which he has grown up and heads for the big city. In Seoul, he shares a flat with another boy from the same orphanage. Both of them get work at a factory while Sumin also works nights as a driver by request. Requested, that is, by wealthy people who get too intoxicated to drive themselves. One night he is asked to drive home a young guy who shows more interest in him than what the others usually do. Sumin ignores his advances. On the following day he discovers that a bunch of newly hired people are laid off from their factory jobs and he is one of them. It turns out that the rich guy from the previous night, Jaemin, is the son of the factory’s owner. He quickly reinstates Sumin who, however, will have none of it and leaves the factory for good. He gets by doing occasional jobs as a dishwasher and cleaner, but doesn't seem to fit in anywhere and finally decides to enroll as a house boy at a local sex club. Life as a rent boy isn’t directly glorious, but Sumin seems to be doing better than before. Jaemin, on the other side, despite being forced into a marriage by his family, is obsessed with finding Sumin and when he finally does, begins to stalk him. This unleashes an emotional roller-coaster which becomes rather violent in the end.

„No Regret” has been called one of the best recent independent Korean films. I can certainly see why. It has a compelling, albeit fairly twisted plot. Yet, the stories told seem real enough and the fate of these orphan boys in the big city is also touching. Besides, one gets a rare insight into the whole question of masculinity and homosexuality in the Korean society, even if only a little. It is also a romantic love story with what must be a Korean twist. Emotions run high and occasional blows are dealt to all parties involved. No one escapes unscarred.

Here you can watch the film's trailer

1 comment:

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