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Ko - production in Busan
  • 13 Highly Anticipated Titles for Second Half of 2010/An aesthetic challenge covering old things with new ones/HANJI
  • by JANG Byung-won /  Dec 01, 2010

     HANJI is a film that proves that the cinematic world of director IM Kwon-taek is still progressing and changing drastically. Known as “a story about obsessed people who are seeking high quality rice paper (hanji)”, this film contemplates the traditional values that are forgotten over the course of time. KANG Sooyeon, an actress who had once shared international fame with director IM, returns for the film and an old but still passionate master IM's challenge to the digital technology is a hot topic in the industry. While having some notable characteristics, substance of the film seems to be still connected to the core of the works done by IM. Despite dealing with a familiar story about traditional Korean rice paper, the storyline of the film goes against our expectations and conventions. Instead of delivering a story about the agony and reality of old Korean paper experts, the film centers on our regrets and realization of portraying today's severe reality that the tradition of Korean paper is facing.
     Phil-ryong, a Joenju city official, comes to realize the severe reality of Korean paper while working on a project which replicates a copy of ‘The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty' and dreams of making good sheets of hanji. A documentary director, Ji-won, comes to help his efforts. Philryong's wife, Hyo-kyung, who suffers from cerebral infarction, travels the country with her family while producing hanji and she also once worked on paper art. Before working on the hanji project, Phil-ryong had lukewarm feelings toward his wife, but as the passion of making a sheet of paper, he becomes interested in her past.
     The main characters in the film are featured with strong will and positive self-esteem that's never overwhelmed by the harsh reality filled with despair and resignation. Examining a person who endures extreme agony and ordeal until completing one's own world is director IM's trademark. A monk who wanders around the country to reach the state of nirvana in Mandara , a singer who made his daughter blind to make her voice perfect in Sopyonje and an obsessed painter who is mesmerized by paintings in Chihwaseon , they all represent the inalterable nature of the works of IM.
    Like IM's previous films questioning whether our tradition can allow the nature remain as it is during the time of changing society, IM takes on the matters caused by the confrontation between the traditional things and new elements that replace them in the film. The most interesting thing is how the end result turns out when hanji, an analog object, meets the digital technology. If saying a form and style of a film reflect the unique world of an auteur, how will the new trial of master IM turn out? “I will try something different from the codes that I've employed in my previous works”, IM says. If that statement is any indication, we should focus on what kind of change is being made in this film.
     Watching IM's films make us reflect the things that have been destructed by our speedy contemporary life. People will come to connect the films with our life and reality. The lives of people portrayed in IM's films are basically the world of agony and sadness. Once again, we will realize there is no happiness without pains and witness an unworldly bliss able to reach through extreme pains.
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