Introduction by Hong Sangsoo (Berlinale review)

Introduction by Hong Sangsoo (Berlinale review)

Youngho is summoned by his father, who is a doctor. Finding him busy with his patients, one of whom is a famous actor, Youngho has to wait. When his girlfriend Juwon moves to Berlin for her studies, Youngho shows up in the city to surprise her. Through her mother, Juwon has found accommodation at the home of an artist whose beauty intimidates her. Some time later, Youngho goes to lunch with his mother who wants to introduce him to a colleague – it is the same man Youngho met at his father’s clinic. Youngho asks his friend Jeongsoo to accompany him, and after lunch they go to the beach. Youngho falls asleep, and dreams of Juwon. When he wakes up, he braves the considerable cold and goes swimming, while Jeongsoo watches.

Three acts with scenes from the life of the main character Youngho compose this new film from Sangsoo, who visits for a second year in a row Berlinale’s Competition, after last years “The woman who run”, and after the 2017’s “On the beach at night alone”. In all those film Kim Min-hee is the common factor, but in this one she maintains a secondary role: the beautiful Berlin based artist that Juwon is so intimidated of. Sangsoo continues in this film his signature takes with long dialogues, camera movements and zoom at the end of the take.

The screenplay of the film, that follows different periods in the life of the characters feels more robust and narrative centric, in contrast to his slightly more abstract films, that followed the main character through the passage of a day. The title represents the try of parents to introduce their young adult kids to life, by starting feeling stable on their feet, and make responsible and bold decisions. Although the youngsters in the film seem lost in their moral code, life style and emotions, not ready to face the world and express what they want, full with fear and regrets. The three acts are carefully selected to represent the dependence of the kids to the parents, the choices, mistakes and misconceptions of the youth, and finally a wake up call.

The dialogues as in all films from Sangsoo, feels – at least to me – fake. I cannot be sure if it’s the subtitles that alter the meaning or the essence of the dialogue, or some difference in how Koreans and Europeans express themselves. Although, I didn’t have this problem with other Korean films, so it isn’t probably the later. The way the characters ask the same questions over and over, or repeat themselves while trying to make a decision, reminds me old soap operas and not modern film making. On the other hand this is usually the style of the characters of all the Sangsoo films, so the way the express themselves is a matter of taste.

The film won the Silver Bear for the Best Screenplay in the 71st Berlinale (2021)

Grade: 2.5/5

by Hong Sangsoo
with Shin Seokho, Park Miso, Kim Youngho, Ki Joobong, Seo Younghwa
Country: Republic of Korea, Year: 2020
Runtime: 66 minutes

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