A love story with a dark twist that I thought worked rather well overall.
directed by Young-hoon Park
written by Won-mi-Byun
starring Byung-hun Lee, Mi-yeon Lee, Eol Lee, Seon-yeong Park
The sure-to-be-wretched remake will be coming out soon, so it?s best to first look at the original before our minds are twisted into oblivion by the scavengers responsible for massacring this film.
On a terrible day, two brothers are seriously injured in separate car crashes; both fall into comas and one wakes up after a year. His actions and mannerisms are precisely like his older brother and he manages to convince his sister-in-law that he indeed is her husband.
Dae-jin (Byung-hun Lee) is a motor race enthusiast and is scheduled for a big race down at the track. His brother Ho-jin disapproves of Dae-jin?s hobby but cannot convince his brother to give it up. Ho-jin (Eol Lee) is a furniture maker who has a big exhibition coming up and he is busy preparing for it. On the day of the race, Dae-jin heads for the track and Ho-jin, although exceedingly late, takes a cab to watch his brother. At the same moment, both brothers are involved in crashes that leave them in comas. When Dae-jin wakes up he begins to do the same things that Ho-jin used to do. He waters the plants in the same way, puts toothpaste on his sister-in-law Eun-su?s (Mi-yeon Lee) toothbrush, makes elaborate meals like Ho-jin, and begins to create furniture pieces in the same manner as his brother. The film focuses mainly on Eun-su?s reaction to Dae-jin?s insistence that he is indeed her husband.
The film could easily have lost momentum after Eun-su accepts Dae-jin and the couple consummate their new, odd love. Indeed, there is a ten minute sex scene (very soft core) that seems to threaten the continuity of the piece but it doesn?t quite because the film doesn?t dwell on that aspect of the relationship after that prolonged sequence. Mainly it?s just two lovers doing what lovers do and it?s relatively sweet and unencumbered. Still, one knows there?s a twist coming and although it doesn?t seem particularly shocking it does put the entire film in perspective.
Motivation is a key element to this film as one attempts to understand what pushes these characters to do the things they do. Especially late in the film it becomes important to understand the drive of a singular character and what it is that inspires them to take the particular road that they travel on.
There is a tremendous sadness in certain scenes particularly where Eun-su is confused about Dae-jin?s behavior and heartbroken over losing her husband. The film does a great job at conveying the difficulties that Eun-su faces as she tries to understand the nature of this new situation. She is forced to see in Dae-jin the man she married and it?s a testament to her will to experience her husband again that she is able to see past the simple fact that she is looking straight at Dae-jin and not Ho-jin.
The chemistry between Eun-su and Dae-jin shifts throughout. At first there is a wall between them as Eun-su refuses to humor Dae-jin and will not take him at his word. It?s just too strange and impossible that the spirit of her husband has somehow taken root in the body of his brother. She does not want to believe that such a thing can be true so she keeps Dae-jin at arm?s length and tries to carry on with her life as best she can. It isn?t until Dae-jin reveals information that only Ho-jin could know that she caves in and accepts Dae-jin for who he says he is. As Ho-jin, Dae-jin is convincing and he manages to make Eun-su fully embrace him as her husband. She so desperately wants any part of her husband she can get so she allows herself to fall in love with what she believes to be the spiritual essence of Ho-jin.
An intriguing development occurs when a doctor becomes convinced that Dae-jin has become possessed by the spirit of Ho-jin. He orders a hypnotist to work with Dae-jin and he comes to the same conclusion. This angle isn?t fully explored but it doesn?t take away from the energy of the film. The characters all work together to create a scenario that proves to be even more complicated than it does initially.
There is an innocence about this film as each of the characters have very wholesome personalities and do not exhibit animosity or any other kind of detrimental behavior toward one another. There is no abject cruelty here in this film and nary a word of anger is raised against any other person. In a way it feels like a fairy tale that has at its core an intensity the belies the tenderness that effects the film throughout. The characters behave in a civilized manner that is expressed in simple terms.
The character of Ye-jin (Seon-yeong Park) is the one who is most effected by Dae-jin?s transformation. Before the accident she professes her love to him and seems greatly wounded by circumstances she cannot control. She is forced to watch Dae-jin and Eun-su pursue the relationship that Ye-jin believes should have been at least put on hold as Ho-jin fights for his life while in a coma. The thought of seeing her boyfriend making overtures at her friend is exceedingly difficult to bear.
Overall, this film explores personality and the ways in which one?s routine causes others to imagine that they have a grasp on who one is. It?s a film that has a twist that tears up the foundation and casts everything that proceeds it into serious doubt. Everything we view turns out to be suspect and the film forces the viewer to interpret the film in an entirely different way. There is a profound sense of longing and loss that is conveyed simply yet with an intensity that informs the film and provides it with a legitimate purpose that is deeply moving and effective. Each character is well-rounded and it?s not difficult to develop a real and lasting bond with each of them.
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