Pinterest
NewsLetter DailyWeekly
 
My HanCinema | Sign up, Why ? Your E-mail   Password    Auto| Help
HanCinema :: The Korean Movie and Drama Database, discover the South Korean cinema and drama diversity Contact HanCinema HanCinema on TwitterFaceBook HanCinema PageHanCinema on Twitter

[Guest Film Review] "A Single Spark"

2018/04/07 | Permalink

The second collaboration between Lee Chang-dong as a scriptwriter and Park Kwang-soo as director was a very political film, which focused on Jeon Tae-il, a worker and workers' rights activist who committed suicide by burning himself to death at the age of 22, in protest of the poor working conditions in South Korean factories.

The story revolves around his life and in a secondary axis, five years after his death, in 1975, when law school graduate Kim decides to write a book about Tae-il, in the midst of the worst period of President Park's regime, when political activism was punishable by death. In the present timeframe, Kim, who is also an activist, hides in a room rented by his girlfriend, while he spends most of his days visiting the places Tae-il have been, with the film changing arcs each time, to present the experiences of the deceased in the particular location. Through these flashbacks, Park depicts the awful working conditions in the factories in Seoul, where tuberculosis due to poor or non-existent ventilation, and the enforced injections of amphetamines to keep sleep-deprived workers awake for days in a row in order to work overtime without proper compensation, was the rule.

Tae-il, working as a tailor in one of these sweatshops is "enlightened" after reading a book about labor law and becomes an activist. After a number of efforts to alarm the authorities of the situation in the factories, he turns to the press, with the publication of his stories becoming one of the few successes he experienced until his suicide. In 1975, Kim also has to deal with the authorities, particularly through his girlfriend, who finds herself a victim to violence due to her activist actions.

Jeon Tae-il directs a very dramatic film, which combines fiction (Kim's arc) with the docudrama (Tae-il's arc) splendidly, with each axis actually strengthening the other. Tae-il's is definitely the one with the most impact, with the black and white cinematography by You Young-gil highlighting both the harsh conditions in the factories and the fact that this arc is taking place in the past. Lee Chang-dong's script on the second axis presents the story with thoroughness and distinct sympathy towards his subject, while Park's direction, along with Kim Yang-il's editing, make the most of the presentation of both axes.

All of the film's aesthetics find their apogee in the self-immolation scene, a truly shocking sequence that intensifies the film's impact even more.

Evidently, the movie takes the side of the activists, but the script does not fail to portray all aspects, even involving some ill practices of the far left, of which Lee Chang-dong had some experience, due to his family's background.

Moon Sung-keun gives a measured performance, highlighting his character's struggles as he deals with an issue that could even have him killed. The one who steals the show though, is Hong Kyung-in as Tae-il who presents his character's metamorphosis from a timid "victim" to a resolved activist and again to a victim of his own despair, in outstanding fashion.

"A Single Spark" is a great film that manages to present a combination of artistry and meaningfulness through a very important episode in the history of the Korean labor movement, in New Wave style.

Review by Panos Kotzathanasis

Facebook

 

"A Single Spark" is directed by Park Kwang-soo and features Moon Sung-keun, Hong Kyung-in, Kim Seon-jae and Yoo Soon-cheol.

Copy & paste guideline for this article
Always put a link back to the source and HanCinema permalink

Creative Commons License"[Guest Film Review] "A Single Spark""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Attention You're reading the news with potential spoilers, make them spoiler free, dismiss


 

 

 Previous news

Subscribe to HanCinema Pure to remove ads from the website (not for episode and movie videos) for US$0.99 monthly or US$7.99 yearly (you can cancel anytime). The first step is to be a member, please click here : Sign up, then a subscribe button will show up.

Settings

Remove ads

Sign up

Sharing

Activate

Spoilers

Visible, hide

Movie of the week

Learn to read Korean in 90 minutes or less using visual associations