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I recently saw Chang-dong Lee's "Beoning" - a remarkable film. I have also seen "Milyang" that's a solid piece and I have heard great things about "Oasiseu". I believe this is one of his lesser known films, even if the man only have done six.
A man kills himself. This is one of the first things that happen here. Then we see his life in a reverse linear narrative, divided into five pieces. Some stories are building on others, many of them of the first clip. We watch his growing struggles in a reverse order and it's a original and cool way of presentation.
It's a bit long and a bit flat at times, even if the violence are both rather raw and often appearing. The subtitles seem very weak and that might have killed a fair bit of this film. The shooting is nice and I like the train shots that we get between stories. OK acting and overall a cool production with some hights when it comes to scenes.
OK film, but nothing more.
6 out of 10 trains.
An established Korean novelist Lee Chang-dong came to the world of filmmaking quite late surprisingly shifting his career from writing plays and fiction. He released his debut film Green Fish in 1997 when he was 43 years old. This film has received wide acclaim and granted Lee Chang-dong a reputation of new influential Korean director. Peppermint Candy (2000) became the second feature-length film of Lee Chang-dong.
A piercing tragedy in Peppermint Candy starts with the protagonist Yong-ho (portrayed by Sol Kyung-gu) committing suicide. The rest of the story is told in a reverse chronology disclosing the events of the character's past leading him to climb up the track and face the train in his suicide. The train track appears every time after new flashback of Yong-ho illustrating his way back in time. In his last moments of life, he couldn't stand it anymore. His traumatized mind was reluctant to deal with either present or future, as Yong-ho was now completely devastated. He gets a final release looking into the past as the train goes back in time, in order to revive the background of this emotional breakdown.
The story of Yong-ho is told in connection with two main characters of his life. Sun-im (Moon So-ri) is the first love of Yong-ho he met 30 years ago. They met during a college trip, and she gave him a peppermint candy he really liked. She symbolizes the character's innocence and pure dreams of having a good future, becoming a photographer, loving a woman. Sun-im enters comatose in the first flashback prior to Yong-ho's suicide. Her last wish was to see him and to hand him a photo camera she has bought him many years ago. Encounter with Sun-im becomes the last drop in Yong-ho's breakdown. But in the other flashbacks, we see how their relationships developed, and how he has lost an emotional link with Sun-im and his innocence she symbolized.
The second character employed to depict the character's tragedy is his wife Hong-ja (Kim Yeon-jin). In flashbacks, we see their marriage not working, and he never used to love Hong-ja or care about her. A flashback shows the time they met when Yong-ho's personality was already corrupted. Many years back he was pulling Hong-ja in front of loving Sun-im just to show the first love he has changed, and there is no way to be together. He marries Hong-ja just for the sake of marrying someone. It comes as no surprise, he ruins the life of Hong-ja traumatizing Sun-im earlier and himself.
Flashbacks connect the tragedy and breakdown of Yong-ho with political events and social problems of South Korea. He's got drafted to the army in 1980 to perform mandatory military services for several years. Before that, he was just a teenager who had no intent to fight. He met Sun-im, and they fell in love. She's been sending him the peppermint candies to the military parts for months while he was dreaming to reunite with his love. However, it was just a dream. The army appeared to be very cruel, and Yong-ho was treated awfully there. Moreover, his unit was sent to quell The Gwangju Uprising in 1980. This day resulted in massacre and Yong-ho accidentally shot the innocent young girl dead. The country and military service have traumatized him this day giving a strat to the destruction of his personality.
Later, we see Yong-ho becoming a police officer. He has a short temper, we see his personality becoming more violent as he tortures the student in the police office. He is not able to get over that day he killed a girl, and now he plots revenge to the world with his cruel methods of work. As time goes by, he becomes even more violent. He refuses to be kind and loving with Sun-im when they meet. Later, he would make one shy attempt to reunite with her, but it won't work. The next time he meets her is the time a few days prior to his own death. He brings peppermint candies to the hospital and talks to Sun-im who is unconscious in a coma. Few hours later, in anger, he sells the camera she left him. She has bought this camera many years ago knowing he wanted to be a photographer, but he refused to take it. Now he destroys from this camera the tape as he wants to have no memories of the past. He cannot get back his innocence as he can't be with Sun-im anymore.
The photo camera, peppermint candies and train appear as the symbols of the protagonist's past several times. These symbols are very simple, as well as the whole story. Yet this clarity doesn't make it boring. The director shows this tragedy in a very simple way, but the film is very thought-provoking and deep. Lee Chang-dong demonstrates in this film both social issues of his country and violent political events of the Korean history. We see how dangerous and harmful these things could be on an example of Yong-ho. The breakdown has started when he simply went to the army, but then he would kill a girl, loose his love, torture people, destroy the life of his wife, scammed by the business partner. In the end of this tragedy, he would have nothing left but the memories of the photo camera and peppermint candy. The traumatic events of his past embed the character in the present he is not able to deal with.
This understated film has a epic feel to it as we try to understand the motives of the film's main character Kim and why he commits suicide. This is a unique and heartbreaking film that slowly unravels the reasoning behind Kim's bitter and brutal nature. I did not like Kim throughout the film, which would usually put someone off but Chang-Dong slowly lays out all of the horrors he's seen and has had to partake in which forces you to feel some level of empathy for a horrible man. A near masterpiece.
Peppermint Candy is a compelling piece of cinema who uses its main characters tragic story arc as an analogy for the political climate in South Korea from 1979 to 1999.
Peppermint Candy begins in 1999 during a class reunion. Yong-ho acts strangely around fellow classmates and then begins to behave more erratically before running to nearby train tracks where he kills himself by standing in front of a train. From then on, the film takes you back on the last twenty years of his life and what led to that point. It's not only an odyssey for the main character, but also a reflection of the tumultuous history of South Korea. It's a film that explores not only the sad parts of his life, but also a reflection of his younger hopeful self and his future. It's a difficult and painful exploration into his tragic life that hits hard. Like other films from director, Lee Chang-dong, the viewer is never given easy answers and the characters are never given an easy route through their problems. You feel Yong-ho's burdens and troubles as they slowly destroy him over the years. Peppermint Candy is a tragically underrated film that I highly recommend to anyone who loves a good drama. It won't be an easy viewing, but it's one of those dramas that stays with you long afterward.
Very great movie. A bit too long, at 2 and a half hours. But, it is simply a biographical decline of one man, who is changed from innocence. It is a fantastic movie. Good acting ad plot.
Rightly considered one of the best films of the decade in Korea, this is story telling at its finest, spanning twenty years, and told in reverse direction, the tale of a doomed man in the backdrop of a nation in turmoil.
Flasback masa lalu yang tak terlupakan...
The problem is the lack of a plot. The film meanders along and expects you to care for the lead character, rather than giving you a reason to.
An anti clock action revealing the misery of a man forced to give up his hopes for future.