At a runtime of only fifty minutes, "The Shower" is better understood not as a film in its own right but more a continuation of "The Road Called Life", the previous project by the Meditation with a Pencil animation studio, which brought together three classic works of early twentieth century Korean short stories to life with vivid animation. "The Shower" also fits that mold. It's a classic, simple story of how a boy watches a girl wash her hands in the river until one day, they go into the nature together.
Ever since seeing "The Road Called Life" I've tried reading classic Korean short stories to get a better grasp of them and honestly, their main striking feature is just sheer simplicity. They harken back to a time (then in living memory), when society, and the people who lived in it, was more transparent and less complicated. So it's little surprise that the structure in "The Shower" too, can be so easily summed up.
Take the most iconic line. It's when the the girl (voiced by Shin Eun-soo) yells "dummy!" and runs off. Why? Because the boy (voiced by No Kang-min) was looking at her, and would not approach her. Just that one scene features a huge amount of convincing character exposition that quite a few movies fail to achieve with quite a few more words. That kind of powerful moment is the hallmark of excellent storytelling, simply by being so immediately relatable.
That's how a lot of romances get started, after all, is just by one party being willing to call the other party out on something. What "The Shower" really gets is that once the main couple has gone that far, they don't really need much else. The subsequent adventure through the countryside that the boy and girl go on is purposeless. The two go exploring together because they want to go exploring together. It's an experience best shared with another person rather than done alone.
That sentiment is perfectly transcribed with the two-dimensional animation so lovingly rendered by Meditation with a Pencil. I mean, just look at it. Nearly every single individual animation cel in "The Shower" is a work of art in its own right. The bright, vibrant greenery of the lush plant life is only broken apart by the image, near or far, of the two lead characters. Their mutual affection grows as does their understanding of the wider world, the sheer dimensions of which they may well have never noticed before being, as they were, alone.
The only wrinkle is how we know that the experience must end, and eventually only the memory is left behind. The boy and the girl know it, too, which is why they try to enjoy the moments they can. Eventually not even "The Shower" after which the story is named can really do much about that. But for all their, and our best efforts, nostalgia can only remain so strong precisely because it isn't around anymore, and can never truly come back.
Review by William Schwartz
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 email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Shower""
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