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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron"

2011/09/10 | 616 views |  | Permalink

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Kelvin Kyung Kun Park's first documentary feature examines the problematic relationship between the subject and the object, the modern and its precursor, as he forges a symbolically rich narrative with an elemental and raw aesthetic. "Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron" is the result of his vision and quest to experience and confront the craft of metal manipulation as it relates to Seoul's rapid industrial development as well as his own family history and sense of self.

Modern Seoul owes much to the Cheonggyecheon district as the heavy hand that grafted together the dissociated industrial fragments of war in post-WWII Korea. Japan's occupation of Korea during the 1940's left behind an industry of metal workers, foundrymen, cutters, and welders whose post occupation function became one with the developmental hopes for Korea as a rapidly advancing and newly freed nation. Constructing a national identity whilst navigating the wave of global expectations on the industrialised front proved to be a problematic and exclusive affair. Generations experienced vast crevasses separating them from each other as well as their collective identity and sense of self.

"In the past five years, the business on Cheonggyecheon has declined as the surrounding neighborhood is in the process of renovation and gentrification, as part of a beautification initiative by the Seoul Metropolitan Government".- Kelvin Kyung Kun Park (Source: Berlinale forum 2011)

In describing his latest film, Mr. Park goes on to outline the relationships he wished to present and document in his film. These were not only that of those hard handed men working the iron, but also his existential relationship with his deceased grandfather who ran one of the metal shops during Japan's occupation of Korea during WWII. "My blood tastes like iron", he says when describing the recurring iron nightmare he had as a child, the same dream of that put him on the path to creating this film.

Iron in the film is a symbolic element in the film that gets shaped and shapes at the same time. With each strike of the mallet, with every casting, and with every forge, the process of becoming is expressed as a free-flowing idea, rather than an immovable or one-way process of creation. A theme that Mr. Park pieces together with an uncomplicated and spirited voice in his latest film. 

The creator and its object become one through dreamy spells of elemental harmonics designed to induce a strangely soothing tune that invites self-reflection and thought. The discombobulated imagery feels uneasy and strange at first but once individuals are introduced the process of becoming inscribed in the film's narrative becomes clear, and follows our appreciation for this young filmmaker's experiment of problematizing modernity in downtown Seoul.

"The reality is that this incongruity can- not be restored in allegorical meaning or in historical structures of modernity, because reality is more mysterious than we could ever imagine once we look deeper".- Kelvin Kyung Kun Park (Source: Berlinale forum 2011)

His narration takes the form of a letter addressed to his deceased grandfather. In it he addresses the nightmare of iron that has plagued him from childhood. His thoughts and emotions follow us as we are guided though this work of steam, sweat, iron, and community. Its hard not become entranced in the piace itself, each scene is crafted with a different twist on its subject matter, but the film still manages to keep the tranquility of its metanarrative throughout with trippy montages, a raw visual aesthetic, harsh but melodious sounds, and unscripted footage of the ghostly individuals that share the screen with the cold iron.

"It is easy to film the world because the lens is always pointing outward. But I discovered that introspection must accompany filmmaking in order for us to make sense of the outside world, because in the end, it is the filmmaker who projects meaning in- to the world he or she captures".- Kelvin Kyung Kun Park (Source: Berlinale forum 2011)

Kelvin Kyung Kun Park's "Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron" captures a problematic era of transition and seeks to instill a new perspective and appreciation for the process of becoming rather that the end result. Identity, in this way, is shape with care and a consciousness that allows for a robust sense of congruency between subject-object relationships, one that arises from collective action that spreads to the individual and their sense of self. "Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron" is indeed a dream, the lucidity of which is questionable only to the extent that the iron of hammer differs from the sheet it must strike.


-C.J. Wheeler (

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