[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Man Who Dies to Live" Episodes 17-18
By William Schwartz | Published on
In a radical twist, Count Said Faid Ali's monologue this time indicates that, apparently, he was the villain all along? It's hard to come up with any other explanation for his stating such explicitly selfish motives. Likewise, it's a bit alarming that Ji-yeong, who has only just now realized the full scope of the elaborate conspiracy, almost immediately comes to a horribly cynical conclusion that, absent Count Said Faid Ali's internal monologue, we might have thought was unfair.
Then again, without Count Said Faid Ali's monologue there's still everything else he does afterwards. Which is largely indistinguishable from his behavior up until now, except it's much more disturbing now that we know Count Said Faid Ali is intentionally throwing his money around because he sincerely believes any possible problem in life can be solved by throwing money at it.
Never have the satirical jabs at money-obsessed South Korean culture been so sharp. The scene with the random extra collecting on his side bet winnings throughout the office is especially disturbing. Ji-yeong and Ho-rim appear to be the only characters in the story right now with any understanding of how incredibly messed up Count Said Faid Ali's entire attitude is. The guy was much more charming as the eccentric weirdo. Now he prides himself as a master manipulator, which completely kills the excuse of his behavior seeming to be impulsive up until now.
I can't decide whether I like this tonal shift or not. On one level I can admire the sheer bravado necessary for the production team to think they can transition from silly slapstick gags to dark satirical humor on a moment's notice. And besides that, it's not like these darker implications come off as a complete surprise. Ho-rim's entire character arc up until now has been about how his obsession with success has led him to neglect his wife, to the point of nearly provoking a divorce.
If there's any more obviously objective flaw in "Man Who Dies to Live" right now, it's that the rift between Ji-yeong and Ho-rim appears to have largely healed in the face of this crisis. Well, that's not fair. It's more that Ho-rim is the only person making any effort to understand what Ji-yeong is going through emotionally right now. He's concerned less about the future of their marriage and more about Ji-yeong's psychological well-being once she willingly starts to play by Count Said Faid Ali's rules. Now that's true love.
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.