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'Once' Travels in Time for Love

2006/11/30 | 356 views | Permalink | Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

Love from the past tends to feel more pure, innocent and beautiful than it was in reality because of time. Time erases details, and sifts out any chance that you can damage the memory, especially if it was a good one.

New melodrama "Once in a Summer (Ku Hae Yorum)" tactfully takes advantage of that tendency. It tells of a couple's love story that is inextricably intermingled with turbulent modern history. The result is that the couple's love appears rather pathetic and the hardships that they go through are felt severely.

Directed by Jo Geun-sik, director of the 2002 hit comedy "Conduct Zero" ("No Manners"), the melodrama is set in 1969. It's the year when man walked on the moon for the first time, but a lot of citizens and university students here fought against the dictatorship of then-President Park Chung-hee and anti-communist movements victimized innocent lives.

In the film, the year is vividly remembered by professor Yoon Suk-young (played by Lee Byung-hun) as the time when he met his first and unforgettable love, with whom he spent 10 precious, life-changing days.

The renowned professor who now leads a single life recalls his fatal love when a television scriptwriter visits him and asks him about his past.

In 1969, Yoon, a college student, goes with some schoolmates to a small rural village to help farmers. He joins the activity that summer to escape from his demanding father. Back then, he was just a mischievous young man from a rich family, who didn't take anything seriously including the students' movements or romances with girls.

But Suh Jung-in (by Soo Ae), who works as a librarian in the village, knocks on his lazy heart with her inexplicable attractions.

Superficially, Suh is always cheerful and energetic. But inside, she hides a tragedy _ her parents went to the North leaving her alone in the village and she led a hard life while trying to step out of the shadow that her communist parents left.

Suh appears to Yoon as cute and adorable, a woman who sings a clumsy song in front of the students and reads an adult novel to illiterate middle-aged male neighbors while eliminating the sexually suggestive parts.

Yoon cannot help but be attracted to her. Likewise, Suh also slowly opens up to him, seeing him as her fate that soothes her pain.

But their separation was destined. Like many innocent people, they couldn't escape from what that chaotic year brought upon them.

They accidentally become involved in a protest, and what awaits them is not a rosy romance but a witch trial due to Suh's parents political ideology. Suh is perplexed and determined to do what is better for Yoon.

Now Yoon, who has spent the past 30 years missing her and remembering her, attempts to find her with the aid of the staff of the TV program before his remaining time drains away.

It seems what the audience expects from a melodrama is not only how it ends but also how people love, which is surely satisfied by the main characters' brilliant performance. Although it doesn't belong to "happily-ever-after" kind of melodrama, it is quite enjoyable as a heart-warming film and many will probably project their own experiences and memories on many scenes in the film.

But it's still a bit disappointing that the film leads the audience to a trite ending despite the frequent time journies, back and forth from the present to the past.

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