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Heavy Scandal

2006/02/16 Source

by Mun-Myung Huh

The movie "Forbidden Quest" seems to want to express satire and the art of deviation, but by putting forth tragic love, it ends up being a story about neither. This movie is the directing debut of screenwriter Kim Dae-woo, who wrote the highest grossing historic movie "Untold Scandal" (strictly speaking it is a remake version of French author Laclos' "Les Liaisons Dangereuses") before the advent of "The King and the Clown", and grabbed the people's expectation to be a follow-up hit after the "The King and the Clown". However, after the premiere, there were some things missing.

The main character is Joseon era scholar Kim Yoon-seo, played by Han Suk-kyu, who studies Confucius and Mencius text and becomes the best contemporary erotic novel writer. He is the best writer in Joseon, but is so fainthearted that he can't even complain about the tortures that his younger brother unfairly suffered from due to political infighting. However, one day, his life takes a twist when the king's concubine Jeongbin, played by Kim Min-jung, thinks that her drawings are fake and asks him to catch those behind it.

Kim teams up with investigator Lee Gwang-hun, played by Lee Beom-soo, and while tracing clues, he coincidentally finds an erotic novel that scandalizes society in the back room of the home of Hwang, played by Oh Dal-soo.

Having nothing better to do, he reads the bootleg novel, and wonders as a writer why the masses are so captivated by this book. He then hears from people that the "true delight of reading comes from the description of dream-like things, things that might be seen only in dreams, or things that can only be dreamt of tasting", and out of the blue, deviates from conventional system and becomes an erotic novel writer.

His dream of wanting to captivate the public with writing becomes true. He even allures Lee, who is a talented painter, to draw mysterious, marvelous but obscene pictures for his novel, and his books become the hot issue of women. Nevertheless, it was him, not his readers, who were caught by the trap of forbidden desire.

Caught in a sexual imagination growing ever stronger, Kim starts to confuse between reality and fantasy and succumbs to the seduction of Jeongbin. Kim suddenly turns into an artist who wants to write a great piece, even by having to sell his soul to the devil, but the price that he pays was harsh. After learning that Kim is a famous erotic writer, Jeongbin worries that their relationship might become known, and conspires against Kim, which ends up by the king torturing and banishing him to an island.

The original intentions of the "Forbidden Quest" were to dissect the essence of human desire, through going back from the sex-laden present to the past Joseon era art of hiding and fake innocence. However, they are not convincing due to scattering interaction of events. Therefore, it does not show a suffocating society that hides its desires, neither does it satires the ruling Yangban class hidden behind ambiguous moral values nor does it deal with true love that one would sacrifice his or her own life, becoming a movie with no direction. The violent torture scenes that show up abruptly in the latter part of the movie do not melt into the overall movie.

It was expected that a refined, well-educated scholar from a noble family feeling interest in writing erotic novels, would show a revolutionary, avant gardist character that refreshingly overturns the taboos of society with rich satire and his eroticism, but the movie failed to meet such expectations. The witty satire hidden under the cover of lightness sank heavily to the bottom just as the tortured, bloodied body of Kim.

Movie opens on February 18, rated R.

Source :

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