Director Lee-kil Bo-ra and her brother were born into a deaf family, although they both have functional ears. "Glittering Hands", on the most basic possible level, is just a home movie of their family life. Obviously Lee-kil Bo-ra didn't plan this project from childhood, so outside of recent years she just shows us brief snippets. There's old photo albums of what her parents were like when they were younger, and the story of their courtship. Mostly though, Lee-kil Bo-ra doesn't do the talking- her parents speaks for themselves, in sign language.
I've familiar with sign language on a basic level. My high school had an usually advanced sign-language program (which those jerks at the state level didn't think counted as a "Real" foreign language). In life or in the movies deaf people do come up every so often, and communicating with them necessitates lots of notes. South Koreans news programs, as well as this movie, also have a little sign interpteter in the corner. But this basic explosure never clued me in to just how complicated sign language really is.
"Glittering Hands" excels mainly when it just shows the two parents talking to each other. You may note that they in fact appear to be communicating with each other much more quickly in sign than could possibly be managed in spoken words. Although that's not a special feature of sign language so much as it is the general rapport between the two- a couple that's clearly been in love for a long time, and shows it best through subtlety.
"My Love, Don't Cross That River" had a similar concept- yet I found myself rather more entranced by "Glittering Hands" precisely because the latter film has more of a realist tinge. These people live in the real modern world, with real modern livelihoods. Lee-kil Bo-ra isn't making this movie because she wants to make a statement on love. Her motivation is really, on a much more simple level, to demonstrate to the world that her parents are not any less capable of love just because they're deaf.
Watching the exploration of their everyday life I really just felt a constant sense of humility, because Lee-kil Bo-ra is absolutely correct. Any one of us would be extremely lucky to have what her parents have. In a world where more elaborate sensory enhancement seems to be the biggest trend, these two are able to maintain a respectable loving life by being, well, just loving and respectable. Even a late conflict regarding moving to a new house is rather low-key, because it's community that matters rather than things.
From the viewing perspective I really just like seeing them talk. The title "Glittering Hands" is a very accurate one. There's something borderline magical about the way dialog works in this environment, how these two can constantly move so quickly while also managing such impressive subtlety. I look at my hands typing right now. It certainly looks like this requires impressive coordination. But having seen "Glittering Hands", I can assure you, it's nothing compared to the meaningful emotional depth of all human expression concentrated into those two marvelous appendages.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Glittering Hands""
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