Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

The Korean Movie Adventure

South Korea is becoming the locomotive in Asian film. – The secret is genre films with an original and national dispute, says Julie Ova in Film from the South Festival.


The year is 2009. Korea has been under Japanese rule for years, and Japan won World War II in alliance with the United States. Then Korean policeman Sakamoto becomes aware of a plot of unknown dimensions, ruled by a Japanese association that has sent an agent back in time to change the story. Suddenly it becomes very difficult to distinguish between friends and enemies, true and false. Can Sakamoto change the story again?

This is how the plot is in the movie 2009 Lost Memories, a nationalist science fiction thriller that appears as a mix of Terminator, The Matrix og 12 Monkeys. Just one of many examples of the emerging South Korean film locomotive, which is also increasingly appearing in Norwegian DVD shelves and movie theaters.

Violence and art

- We have only had three Korean films on the market since 1995, and it has not been the big audience films. But I think we can safely say that interest in Asian film in general is growing. South Korea is constantly mentioned as an exciting film country, and one of the reasons for that is probably the availability of films – both on DVD and not least via festivals, says Anne Marte Nygaard in the distribution company Arthaus.

On Friday this week, Arthaus will release its fourth South Korean film in Norway, Oldboy by Park Chan-wook. This is a revenge organ so brutal and bloody that it gets Quentin Tarantinos Kill Bill to appear as Death at Oslo S. Later this fall, ORO Film will be featuring Kim Ki-Duks Bin Jip – Empty room; a far more down-to-earth story about a guy holding houses in other people's apartments while out.

- Oldboy is a perfected stylistic violent film, while Empty rooms is an example of Korean creativity, in which it plays more on the recognizable and based on everyday life. Kim Ki-Duk has been very visible at the film festivals in recent years, and he is getting a lot of attention in the West. He has the ability to grasp ordinary stories and give them a special dispute, says Julie Ova, program director for Film from the South Festival in Oslo.

Good genre film

In the fall, films from the South will focus on Japan, so this year there are only three Korean films on the program. It could easily have been twice as many, but the three films give a good insight into what is happening in South Korea. Taegugki: The Brotherhood of War takes place during the Korean War, and is a magnificent war film compared to Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Untold scandal is a Korean film adaptation of the popular novel Dangerous compoundswhile Empty house thus, he represents the more personal Korean art film.

- The Korean film industry has gradually grown big, but over the last five years a lot has happened. South Korea is still not as big as Japan and India when it comes to production, but is lagging behind when it comes to quality. It is quite clear that the Korean film industry aims to take up the fight with Japan, and we see results from that in the form of very good genre films: science fiction, horror films and crime, says Ova.

The secret of the broad success of the South Korean film industry lies in the genre films. Korean filmmakers are able to take well-known genres and narrative forms, then equip them with both original ideas, surprising stories and credible and deep characters. They do not follow the movie rules, and an everyday drama can suddenly be torn up by brutal scenes of violence in the same way that a suspenseful movie contains conflicting protagonists and poetic scenes in the midst of the action flood. At the same time as the filmmakers are constantly managing to give the films a genuine Korean packaging.

This is exactly why the films are so strong at home. Then the last movie in Lord of the Ringstrilogy became the most popular foreign film in South Korea of ​​all time, with its six million tickets sold, it could not compare with the smash success of Taeguggi og Silmido – which sold 11 million tickets each.

Tarantino has the credit

- The new Korean film manages to blend local culture, history and traditions, also within the genre films. That's what's so impressive. One thing is that they find their own niche, what is surprising is how the Koreans manage to add something new across the board. We are not only experiencing a wave of small sweet Korean films, but a new and original way of making great genre films, Ova believes.

In Southeast Asia, South Korean film industry Japan, India and China breathe in the neck in the battle for film hegemony, while Ova gives Quentin Tarantino and the explosive DVD market the credit for expansion in the West.

- Tarantino has always included Asian references in the films. He also makes no secret of it, but on the contrary is very open in relation to which films he is inspired by. Thus, the audience also wants to see the originals, so that more and more people realize that much of what is fun, original and exciting in Hollywood film is taken from Asia. Asian movies are not weird, but funny.

You may also like