[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 15-16
By William Schwartz | Published on
Poor Ho-rim. He's only just gotten out of the ill-advised plan the other Ji-yeong had to get close to Count Said Faid Ali, and is promptly dragged into Count Said Faid Ali's own elaborate plot to confess to the truth to his actual daughter, in an even more convoluted and goofy fashion. I am relieved that Ho-rim has been shown to be so unsympathetic so far. It makes it easy to laugh at his well-deserved suffering by Count Said Faid Ali's hands.
Aside from the inherent absurdity of the premise "Man Who Dies to Live" has consistently impressed me with its fairly serious discussion of the causes and effects of marital crises. Exotic causes notwithstanding, Ho-rim screwed up, and he knows he screwed up, so now he must struggle with trying to find forgiveness from his wife. The little scene where Ho-rim collaborates with his own daughter on the best way to get back into Ji-yeong's good graces is adorable.
I'm impressed with how perfectly we see the situation from Ji-yeong's perspective. The use of flashback is excellent, because it's not just backstory or recaps we see. The specific editing also gives us a glimpse into Ji-yeong's thought process. As is the case in real life, there are multiple interpretations and lessons to be learned from Ji-yeong's memories, giving us a fully ambiguous picture which allows for quite a bit of variation in plausible character behavior.
This creates an illusion of agency, which for the most part is necessary since Ji-yeong remains ignorant of the larger plot and is still entirely a reactive character. Because again, I can try to upsell the more realistic dynamics of "Man Who Dies to Live" as much as I want, but fundamentally, this is still a very silly story where most of the laughs comes from either Count Said Faid Ali and Ji-yeong engaging in cartoonish overreaction. Low brow as these jokes may be, they're still funny, and that's what really matters.
I also really love how "Man Who Dies to Live" is able to manage its surprises. The conspiracy storyline against Count Said Faid Ali has been a very slow burn, and it's a great reflection of how, rich playboy that Count Said Faid Ali may be, there are also definite downsides to having him as a dad. Ji-yeong does not forgive and forget. That passion is, oddly enough, actually one of her more endearing qualities, as it is with her father.
Review by: William Schwartz
"Man Who Dies to Live" is directed by Ko Dong-seon, written by Kim Seon-hee and features Choi Min-soo, Kang Ye-won, Shin Sung-rok, Lee So-yeon, Jasper Cho, Kim Byung-ok, Hwang Seung-eon and Bae Hae-sun.
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. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.