This film featured as part of the London Korean Film Festival 2018 and in its INDIE FIREPOWER strand. Other films of Park Kiyongs were featured. We also met and spoke to Mr Park an that interview will be published separately.
We open at an airport and although definitely not the first film to do that* – neither Korean or non-Korean – the scene is set, and in its own unique way, or perhaps more aptly in Park Kiyong’s certain way.
* In fact, only recently, and actually on Day 3 of this year’s LKFF such a start to a film was mentioned – one which begins in an airport. In particular, and during a special forum which zoned in on the London Korean Film Festival 2018’s Special Focus strand, “A Slice of Everyday Life”, it was brought up by Jang Byungwon (programmer of the Jeonju International Film Festival). hat film was/is “경마장 가는 길” (“The Road to Race Track”) by Jang Sun-woo. Also present in the fascinating forum were Kim Yang-hee (Dir. The Poet and The Boy), Yang Ik-June (Dir. Breathless & actor in The Poet and The Boy, as well as other films)… Plus Danny Leigh (critic and broadcaster), Colin O’Toole (Dir. Cowboy Dave) and the marvellous-as-always translator Seh.
The woman we first see, and indeed the film’s female lead & one of two main actors and/or protagonists, is pulling along her luggage. There appears to be an issue with said luggage though. If I was going to be all film school-y or a tad academic I would suggest that this could represent her life, perhaps up & down, broken or simply surprising and full of the unexpected.
However, to do that – especially at this stage – would also indicate I know too much about what may-or-does follow, and not least lead you on a path of potential spoilers.
So… I won’t.
Soon, a perhaps bureaucracy induced scene concerning said luggage which has a defect. Does one blame the airport, the airline, even the manufacturer? Perhaps our female character may just as well blame herself.
As we move through these early scenes, and also later on and throughout the movie we see Park Kiyong’s talent or habit of showing us the surroundings. Is he implementing years of filmmaking talent or more specifically honing in on his documentary storytelling? Either way, the style may not be mainstream – and indeed why should it be?! – but it both sets the scene and tells us what we need to know. It can be a bland shot of the construction of an airport or a naturally lit part of nature. Either way, it looks good, yet subtle & natural, whilst beautiful at times.
Instead of showing a shot from those airport scenes, here’s a sublime one from later on in the movie:
Our female lead is soon outside the airport, smoking. A pivotal act, one could say and a prominent and important habit as we, the audience, will see later on. Our woman soon gets chatting to someone…
That someone. Who is he/she?
It’s perhaps no surprise that these two know each other or indeed did at one point… After all, this film’s title gives such a thing away, surely. That said, it could refer to OLD love as in older people, rather than a historical romance – I actually think it could be both here, without overstating the fact that they are not youngsters… not anymore, anyhow.
This will not be this couple’s last meeting.
Exit the airport…
After a further meeting or two their catching-up leads to more learning about one another. Of course, this involves a restaurant or two but also SLOW conversation. It’s poignant and kind of sentimental whilst slowly building the rekindling of a relationship, and while constructing to the viewer what may have gone on in the past.
But… are these two individuals in new and settled relationships, separate from each other? Time will tell. They certainly have other issues occurring, as we hear from the characters themselves or indeed their phone calls to off-camera other characters. Such issues seem to relate to family matters and others.
These two people may have changed, and some would say Seoul, or Korea in general, has also moved-on since they last met.
You see, we witness the protests against Park Geun-hye*, the recently ousted president of South Korea, as well as mention by our two could-be lovers how certain things have changed.
NOTE: Off-camera and as a sidenote from myself, such ‘mini movements’ are now seemingly more common-place in Korea these days: Activism for equal rights, the Me Too movement, those impeachment requests for the aforementioned Park Gun-hye, the candlelit vigils [and much of this all this following that terrible Sewol ferry incident back in 2014].
Enough about politics and Seoul, what follows is a trip somewhere… somewhere away from the country’s capital.
Where? Is it a place which holds further memories?
Well, that place is revealed as Gangchon. And that place is where their conversations, and, dare I say it, relationship progress/es, or at least continues.
In such discussions, a company is mentioned and that organisation is THAAD (or T. H. A. A. D… or ‘Terminal High Altitude Area Defense’). This perked up the activist side of me, not least because when I’ve visited Korea and specifically Jeju, the anti-THAAD campaigning is going strong. After all, the government and the US are allowing such dangerous ‘defence’ systems [mostly untested, many would admit] all over South Korea.
Ironically, the place in Jeju which I speak of, is where the unwanted US navy base has been set-up, despite 10 years of opposing. That area on Jeju? Gangjeong! In fact, I couldn’t help but think of the similarity to the word and place name of Gangchon, the place where these 2 ‘old loves’ travel to.
[If you’re interested in Gangjeong or JEJU, or indeed the issues caused by THAAD why not check out the talk I gave on Jeju-do itself when I was there, yet again, last year: …]
I certainly had a question or to for Mr Park Ki-yong in my interview with him.
Another sublime shot – and close in the film to where that other image I mention (see further back in the article) – could also be interpreted as political, or at least something keeping the two Koreas apart… or symbolising a yearning to be back together. However, this is coming from the mouth, keyboard or mind of this warped-minded reviewer!
Perhaps woman meets man, South meets North or Kim meets Moon… 😉
Look at that shot, and the country/ies of Korea…:
Just look at the shape of the stream, and with the rocks appearing in that place (and indeed in the centre of the shot), I couldn’t help thinking of that dreaded 38th Parallel and line which separates North from South.
Add to the fact that our two LEADS are holding hands and one LEADING the other, it definitely reminded me of two Korean LEADERS!
Talking of a country which is both TOGETHER and APART, let’s get back to this couple, who are just as similar and perhaps as unpredictable as that.
They continue to talk and walk.
Of course, if this couple are going away for an evening or a few days surely that means they’ll have to sleep somewhere too? So, does that sleeping somewhere become sleeping [with] someone, like ‘each other’?! My lips are sealed. Seek out the film to learn the outcome.
I will say though, that towards the end of the film, and still in this area of Gangchon, I believe, is a lovely scene where he, our male lead [whom it’s earlier revealed about his previous route taken in the field of theatre], meets and drinks with students of such an art.
Does he regret not truly pursuing his theatre work? Does she too? Such questions or angst-driven thoughts are woven into the whole film, and so are general life ‘what-ifs’… or at least thats how it felt to me.
Overall, this film, even though a slow one, has a charming and almost sedatory style about it. Such rekindling of love or life situations can be related to by many of us and let’s face it, a film about love, unrequited, lost or reunited appeals to so many of us, whether we choose to admit it or not.
At the festival, a similar narrative or story of Mr Park’s was shown, “CAMEL(S)” and although the same in certain ways, “OLD LOVE” was ultimately the easier, more beautiful and even more picturesque watch of the two.