"Pruning the Grapevine
" by director Min Byeong-hoon
is a movie of a theological student who is swaying between love for God and secular love. Su-hyeon (played by Seo Jang-won
) leaves his girlfriend Su-ah (played by Lee Min-jeong
) and focuses on the theological school. But he is shaken upon receiving a wedding card from Su-ah. He tries to quit school, but the head of the school advises him to go to a monastery. There, he meets sister Helena (played by Lee Min-jeong
) who looks exactly like Su-ah.
The movie focuses on fear and its heaviness. Characters deny and run away from their fears. The more they run, they face bigger fears. The movie implies that we can find peace and be saved when facing our greatest fears. Characters all face fears: Su-hyeon's girlfriend dies, the head of the school meets a girl who is about to die from a disease, and sister Helena meets Su-hyeon, who resembles her dead boyfriend.
Similar situations were also portrayed in Min's last movie. "The Flight of the Bee" portrays a man who did not face up to the violence of a next-door neighbor. In "Let's Not Cry", a man is faced with fear by being mistaken as a violinist and keeping pretending to be one. In his movies, there is always a wise man who helps the characters overcome their fears. In "Pruning the Grapevine
", the wise man is an old monk. He advises Su-hyeon, "Be light, as light as a feather. Overcome your fears, and remove your pain". But the ultimate wise man is God. Maybe this is why there are so many shots from an extreme high-angle, almost from the sky.
Director Min's movies are unique. Recent Korean movies concentrate on popularity. Movies that make the public feel pleasant and comfortable are popular. Such movies have their own merits in making the viewers happy.
Director Min's movies focus on the efforts of actors with strong personality, an inside view which is hard to see in blockbusters, and in religious places like monasteries. It is regrettable that it is not easily understandable and heaviness and lightness are not well balanced. However, despite that, "Pruning the Grapevine
" offers an experience that is unusual in modern Korean movies. It gives moviegoers the chance to experience a bit of introspection and find signs of salvation. The movie is scheduled to be released on February 22, and is rated for ages 12 and up.