Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





Venice 2007: Beyond the Years

Im Kwon-taek’s 100th film, “Beyond the Years” is his first on love and romance. Well known for social dramas and humanistic movies, he won the best director’s award at Cannes in 2002 for “Strokes of Fire”. Also renowned for his powerful
Jo Jae-hyun as Dong-ho and Oh Jung-hae as Song-hwa
works such as “Mandala”, “Surrogate Woman” and “Come Come Upward”, Im is, as one can see in his latest creation, not quite comfortable dealing with love. Autobiographical, or so it seems, “Beyond the Years” tries to make up for this weakness by presenting a canvas of extraordinary visuals, conceived and captured by Jung Il-sung. The Korean landscape appears almost ethereal, sublimated in “pansori” or Korean throat-singing. In fact, the film can well pass off for a musical. Ryo Kunihiko’s compositions enslave one’s heart. Exquisitely modern, the music uses a range of instruments like the piano, drum, Irish whistle and the crumhorn. The score was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

However, beyond the melodious imagery, the movie offers very little. About two siblings, whose father is a failed singer, “Beyond the Years” spans some 15 years, punctuated by unrequited, and perhaps, incestuous love between the musician’s daughter, Song-hwa (Oh Jung-hae) and his stepson, Dong-ho (Jo Jae-hyun). The years see Dong, tired of the old man’s resolve to make a perfect drummer out of him that entails hard schedules, run away from home and his beloved to join the army. Song labours on to become a singer, and Im’s foray into the romantic musical genre can be a point of curiosity, appealing to non-festival audiences at home and abroad.

Despite some good acting by the lead pair, the film is pretty confusing with its flashbacks and flash-forwards. If it is guilt that keeps Dong away from Song, pushing him into a reckless marriage with an actress, it is not convincingly conveyed, and there are places where Im seems to lose control over the narrative. The flaw obviously lies with scripting, and maybe the helmer’s inexperience in dealing with a subject like this. Or, it could just be that he let emotion play director.

(Webposted September 9 2007)