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'Eternal' Dreams Up Youthful Passions

2007/08/16 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

They say first loves never die, and "For Eternal Hearts" immortalizes onscreen the allure and power of youthful passions. Dreams and remembrances delightfully converge in this haunting love story that transcends the borders of life and death, and leaps over the passage of time.

Su-yeong (Jung Jin-young) is a quiet, middle-aged professor of German literature at a local university. At the request of his students, he reminiscently recounts his first love that stole his heart during his college days. As a young man Su-yeong was shy, naive and studious (Jung Kyung-ho). But his life is forever changed when he meets the wild and eccentric "Pippi" (Kim Gyu-ri).

He is crushed, however, when Pippi commits suicide in the name of love. But Pippi magically reappears before him and life starts to take a bizarre turn. It is believed here that when a person dies, the soul wanders around for 49 days before making the final passage to the other world. If it fails to accept death, however, the soul becomes forever lost, an invisible ghost.

Meanwhile, Su-yeong begins tutoring a high school girl named Su-ji (Cha Soo-yeon) at her eerie mansion. Though he is increasingly drawn to Su-ji's soulful eyes and idiosyncratic charms, Su-yeong is also very frightened -- until he learns a great secret that will allow him to face the haunting force of love.

Humorously poignant and harrowingly beautiful, "Eternal" delicately captures the hushed passions of young men and women. Set in the 1980s, the film features heated student protests in the background, adding a feverish fuel to the fire of youthful love.

The film freshly revives the tradition of Shakespeare's young, star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Characters firmly believe "If you truly love someone… You would have to follow him to death", and romanticize, "Isn't it beautiful? Dying with the person you love".

Actors Jung Kyung-ho ("Herb", 2007) and Kim Gyu-ri ("Low Life", 2004) and newcomer Cha Soo-yeon give life to thoroughly adorable characters who could have well been caricature-like. Singer Kim C, or Kim Dae-won, also makes an appearance, giving the film a humorous edge with his oddball character. He also sings a mellow song track with popular singer Park Ji-yoon.

It comes as a surprise that director Hwang Kyoo-deok ("Cheolsoo Loves Younghee", 2004) brings to the silver screen such a surreal love story, because he is well known for the realism and sharp social criticism in his films.

Yet the surreal quality of "Eternal" is precisely what makes it "real" and genuinely moving. "Isn't life like a dream? No, not a dream but like a lie. A lie", says Su-yeong with a bittersweet chuckle in the film. "Eternal" explores life and its greatest mysteries, the human condition and its fragile, fractured existence, as well as the undying spirit of the heart.

"Until now, ever since I recommenced making films in my 40s, I pursued the `fantasy' genre. But 'fantasy' I speak of must be like a tree with roots deeply imbedded in historical reality", the director was quoted as saying in a press release. Hwang's harrowing story was in fact inspired by his own experience.

"Eternal" captivated viewers when it premiered at the 2007 Puchon (Bucheon) International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) as the opening film. Step into this magical temple of youth and be prepared to be enchanted and enthralled by the haunting power of love.

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