March 9, 2009

MOVIE: Taegukgi 태극기 휘날리며

Due to the busy schedule that I have these past few months, I have neglected my hobby of spamming this blog with DBSK or Changmin posts.hehe I have already resorted to listing down the things that I need to contribute for the survival of my anything asian addiction.

So, before the Busy buzzer finally rings, let me post something out of Korea's movie industry. I have watched this film just last Friday when everyone of my officemates have punched out for the day. :D

Taegukgi (태극기 휘날리며)

In the beginning of 2004 the South Korean film industry was shaken twice within 2 months. First, “Silmido” broke every imaginable record and pulled 11 million people into the theaters when it opened in December 2003, making it the most watched film ever in Korea. Then in February 2004, “Taegukgi” surpassed that record, by moving almost 12 million tickets. That means a third of the population saw these films. But “Silmido” and “Taegukgi” share more than impressive boxoffice numbers. Both films deal with the relations to North Korea, and both films are - in one way or another - about war.


The story opened with a scene in an excavation site. Archaeologists are dusting a piece of old skull beside a bullet riddled soldier's helmet. A memorial site is being constructed for those who have fought during the Korean war. Lee Jin-seok receives a phone call from the army telling him that they have uncovered a skeleton whom they believe are his remains. Because of this, Lee Jin-seok readily went to the excavation believing the remains found were those of his older brother.

Flashback to Seoul 1950.

We are presented a much younger Lee Jin-seok, then a student, and his older brother Lee Jin-tae. The relationship between the two brothers was really something to be envied. It was really evident how much the older brother loves Jin-seok, even buying him an expensive pen he could use when he goes to university. The family was not rich. The older brother barely had any education and the mother just had a small noodle shop in their place. But both mother and Jin-tae broke their backs working just to earn money to send Jin-seok to university. But despite the hardships, you can see how contented they were with their life. They have clothes on their backs, food on their table and a loving family. Both the brothers live with their mother, their other younger siblings and Jin-tae's fiancee Young-shin. Young-shin was the one helping their mother in the noodle shop while Jin-tae is off shining shoes at the streets.

The tranquility of their life was shattered when war broke out between Communist country North Korea and South Korea. The family was forced to evacuate since their place is on the verge of the border. As they were fleeing from their home, men from the army arrived and ordered males aged 18-30 to take up arms and serve the country. Jin-seok was forcefully taken away despite his mother's pleading. When Ji-tae arrived from an errand and found out that his brother was taken away, he immediately began to look for him in the train carriages containing the new recruits. He began to reason out with the officers that his brother is not allowed to take part in the military since he is still a student. But his calm pleading fell on deaf ears until Jin-tae started throwing punches in an attempt of allowing his brother to escape. But in the end both of them were recruited in the army. As the train is leaving, the brothers saw their mother frantically waving at them. Jin-tae shouted an assurance to his mother that he would take care of his brother.

Director Kang Je-gyu has presented a no-holds-barred battle scenes between the North and South Koreans. Being a fan of ultimate gore and epic war scenes, I think that Kang Je-gyu delivered to fans of war films everything we ever craved for in a battle scene. The ever changing atmosphere pulls you ever closer to the film,creating variety and not just battle in a mud-strewn environment like most war filmst.Aside from that, the desolation that one can feel during the war times is intensified with every enemy encounter. Bullets, cannon balls fly everywhere. Bodies smoked from rapid bursts from enemy machine guns. Body parts get dismembered from land mines. Everything was true to life. The shootings looked freakin real that you wonder if those people really are not dead after that shoot. The camera shake employed makes viewing a little difficult for those who are not used to screens in constant motion but to people like I am, the shaking only intensifies the chaos you see on the screen.

Jin-tae was always on the lookout for his brother. He even pleaded to a platoon leader that they be allowed to stay together since his brother is too young to be experiencing the horrors of the war alone. We can see as the scenes unfolded, how devoted a brother Jin-tae is. Also we see how much Jin-seok adores his older brother. But those feelings were practically the reason why the brothers would be butting their heads in the later part of the film.

Meanwhile, as the war progresses, Jin-tae is ever worried of his brother. Because of that he struck a deal with his commander that if he would get a Medal of Honor, his brother Jin-seok would be discharged from the army and sent home. Because of this, Jin-tae would volunteer for every suicidal mission - the more dangerous, the better - just to secure the medal that would free his younger brother. But Jin-tae was oblivious of this sacrifice and after several scenes, something in him finally snapped and he loathed his brother so much. The concern he once felt towards his brother on every suicidal motion he partakes was now changed to one of rage as he thinks that his brother is only doing those missions to gain recognition.

Will the brothers be able to salvage the relationship they once had before? Or would it crumble and lay in ruins like their country? You have to watch the film to appreciate what a good story this is. Though i must admit that the ending was not what I had expected at all. Still, a must-watch.

Yehey,at last I finished this entry.hehe Just see the discrepancy between the draft date(posted date) and the actual date it was published which is...March 16, 2009.


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