Follow HanCinema
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

[HanCinema's Film Review] "Memories of the Sword"

2018/05/05 | 994 views | Permalink

Hong-i (played by Kim Go-eun) is a talented young martial artist living in the Goryeo era. Hong-i is so jazzed about being able to achieve an obviously impossible acrobatic feat over a sunflower that she celebrates by running off into town and impulsively entering a martial arts tournament. But before we get to know Hong-i too well, her mother Wol-so (played by Jeon Do-yeon) and archenemy Yoo-baek (played by Lee Byung-hun) take over the movie, with Hong-i only making fleeting appearances.

On the business end I can sympathize with this creative decision. After all, if you hire Jeon Do-yeon and Lee Byung-hun to be in your movie, it's a bit of a waste to just shove them off into supporting roles. But on the creative end, the disproportionate emphasis on Wol-so and Yoo-baek completely kills the momentum of Hong-i's character growth. Indeed, Wol-so and Yoo-baek effectively kill Hong-i's sense of agency too, as the young woman increasingly comes off as a puppet intended to settle old scores rather than a character in her own right.

Yool (played by Lee Junho) is similarly shafted. His role is among the more potentially interesting as Hong-i's similarly aged opposite sex rival with a position of some importance in Yoo-baek's sinister organization. Alas, he barely even gets a personality. Which is especially weird, because Yool definitely does a lot more than Yoo-baek in the present day. It's just, we really do spend that much time stuck in flashback mode with Wol-so and Yoo-baek.

What makes this screenwriting decision especially frustrating is that Hong-i has no way of knowing what actually happened between Wol-so and Yoo-baek back in the day. "Memories of the Sword" could have gotten a lot more dramatic tension by making the backstory deliberately ambiguous, which in turn would have opened Wol-so and Yoo-baek's actions up to multiple interpretations. Yoo-baek in particular suffers from this, because the man's so consistently reluctantly evil he never ends up feeling like much of a threat.

The real shame of all this is that "Memories of the Sword" looks absolutely gorgeous. Director Park Heung-sik combines vibrant colors with unimpeachably well-flowing action. Every minor taunt or feint takes on larger than life dimensions. The choreography is so exquisitely orchestrated that we really learn more about the characters from their martial arts moves than their role in the actual story. Hong-i the impulsive, Wol-so the calculating, and Yoo-baek the painstakingly defensive.

Of course none of these archetypes are all that deep, and "Memories of the Sword" suffers from its two hour runtime as much as anything else. The movie is just plain exhausting, and can't even spare a moment for comic relief. Though the base outline of the plot is just a fairy tale metaphor for growing up, there's also a lot of weighty material about death and politics and freedom tossed in there and I was just, geez, why does this story have to be so complicated? After a certain point excessive explanation just calls to attention a lack of confidence in the universal nature of the story's underlying themes.

Review by William Schwartz

 

"Memories of the Sword" is directed by Park Heung-sik and features Lee Byung-hun, Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Go-eun and Lee Junho.

 

Available on DVD, Blu-ray, Online from Amazon and YESASIA

DVD TH (En Sub)
DVD TH (En Sub)
DVD 2-Disc (First Press Limited Edition) (En Sub)
DVD 2-Disc (First Press Limited Edition) (En Sub)
Blu-ray US (En Sub)
Blu-ray US (En Sub)
DVD US (En Sub)
DVD US (En Sub)
Amazon Video
Amazon Video

 

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

Creative Commons License"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Memories of the Sword""
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

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

X