A Love within the Context of the Korean Popular Cultural Production
The famous Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru has aptly noted, “Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit” (“Best Jawaharlal Nehru Quotes” n. p.). In fact, it is a set of norms, beliefs, and values that surrounds every person in the world in a day-to-day life on both local and global levels. It is an all-embracing phenomenon due to its immense manifestations, ranging from the ordinary ways of cooking to magnificent art works. What is more, business has its implication in culture whereas there is a specific industry that involves the cultural production. In this way, people as cultural consumers are presented with exiting films and plays, absorbing music and songs, fascinating photographs and pictures, inspiring poems and novels and so forth. In addition, although globalization, as a process of erasing the borders between nations and the creation of the culture of universe, is influential, then, the dominance of the local one over the worldwide culture is still prevailing.
Therefore, the paper presents a multisided analysis of A Love by Kwak Kyung-taek (2007) within the Korean cultural context as well as the correlation of the film with the cultural production, as a whole.
Contextualization of the Film under Consideration
A Love has been created by Kwak Kyung-taek, who is both a screenwriter and a director of the picture. Overall, the story is centered on In-ho and Mu-ju, played by Joo Jin-mo and Park Si-yeon respectively. Drawing upon a title, it is evident that the film is about love. Indeed, the feelings of the protagonists are shown from their teen through young years. Their love is not an excess passion or brutality, but a naive and sensitive teenage spirit attraction. It just grows through the years. The viewer meets the characters as school-aged children. In-ho comes to a new school and poses himself as brave and principle boy at once. His life changes when he protects a nice girl from his class due to a classmate’s mean joke. However, coming to Mu-ju’s birthday, the boy sees how his sudden beloved is going away because of debts before creditors. A hair decoration as a present to the girl and her painting are all what he has got as a remembrance. Time passes, and In-ho becomes a perspective judo fighter. He dreams of applying for college, when he meets Mu-ju again. The circumstances of their new meeting are not cloudless. He has had a fight with her brother and has been wounded. In any case, they try to become friends afterwards. Nevertheless, the creator has made a plot more dramatic. Mu-ju’s brother becomes a cause of death to his mother and himself. The girl is left alone with many debts due to her family’s deals with a local gang. Seemingly, In-ho may be a soulmate to the poor girl and be of the great assistance in supporting her. However, this event has become just the first one in a range of troubles.
The depiction of events in the movie is quite realistic and reveals the characteristics of South Korean and (later) Japanese life conditions, where the plot is set. The bitterness of all circumstances is diluted by violence. Of course, this aspect does not mean that both cultures are drawn in cruelty and criminal aggression. Nonetheless, the whole action in the movie looks like the real to life events, when rich and powerful people rule the world. Thus, the talented ones get into troubles. Moreover, the demonstration of hard work conditions of ordinary employees, who often meet injustice and have to put enormous efforts to earn at least something to survive, assists in achieving this realism. Apart from that, certain individuals prefer the easy money while engaging in gang activities. Thus, Kwan’s approach to the film creation makes it maximally close to a local traditional life environment. It is familiar to the intended audience. It should be noted that the main idea of A Love is not focused on showing how rude or violent South Korean or Japanese residents can be. Conversely, he has attempted to convey the viewers to choose the ones that may contradict this external environment and remain sensitive humans when all and everything is against.
Key Parts Analysis
The structure of this plot seems classical: specifically, a positive character gets involved in unfavorable events. However, he remains fair and just irregardless of numerous trials. It is completely localized since all characters behave like ordinary residents of the Korean urban area. Kwang often shows the country’s scenery: for instance, In-ho and Mu-ju’s dinner, having an evening city panorama as a background and the scenes over the sea to list a few. Even buying a gift for Mu-ju being Korean is special as a shop-assistant emphasizes that all goods are produced domestically. Besides, the audience may observe scattering of the ashes at sea after the cremation that embodies an Asian custom to part with dead relatives. It is a ritual.
One of distinctive features of the movie under analysis is the usage of symbols in order to make the sense of any plot deeper. It is to be underlined that the Korean culture itself is a rich source of a wide range of symbols. It starts from the Korean flag with Yin and Yan and ends with water lily and rose of Sharon among others. In any way, some symbols in the film are personalized rather than reflect the existing cultural beliefs. Firstly, even the title of the picture A Love is symbolic. Namely, the use of an indefinite article before an uncountable noun is not usual. However, it shows the exceptional occurrence of a once-and-forever feeling, which cannot be repeated, forgotten or abandoned. Secondly, another symbol applied by the director is a tiny hair decoration in a form of a golden leaf and Mu-ju’s painting of an autumn landscape. This season is the time when they met for the first time. Hence, it is an embodiment of their feelings’ birth. The plot is also skillfully framed with the unison of piano and violin in the most dramatic moments as well as singing an English song while drinking wine and eating pizza on the cliff over the sea. This is a symbol of In-ho and Mu-ju’s reunion being an element of globalism depicted in the picture.
The next element to be discussed is a role of main characters within a cultural set of the film. In-ho as a protagonist is principle and goal-oriented, fair and loyal to his life position. He goes in for national sports, i.e.judo; and he does it quite successfully. He becomes an applicant to a college due to his sports’ achievements. Although his life is tough and poor (he is brought up by a single mother and lives in hardships), he goes through life optimistically. He is full of hopeful aspirations for a better future. This approach to posing a hero in the movie can be called a Korean dream. In particular, the viewers see hardworking people around, whose life frequently goes along with violence and crime. On the contrary, In-ho has an opportunity to pave a more successful way as compared to the majority of his countrymen. He is being the hope of the entire working class to some extent. Nevertheless, he has revenged for abuse of his beloved one, leaving his dream non-fulfilled. Thus, he has got in jail. On the one hand, this occurrence can be considered as a disappointment. On the other hand, he would not be respected by others if he would act differently. Even being in jail, all that matters to In-ho is mutual feelings and his girlfriend’s honor in the eyes of community rather than his freedom.
The image of Mu-ju is tragic but it is calling for sincere empathy. She incorporates some features of female trials through her hard life, alongside with criminality of her family on the verge with their spiritual degradation. However, she evokes admiration because she remains pure and fair in her soul, notwithstanding all those circumstances. Moreover, when Mu-ju thought that In-ho had been killed, she had given her life to the sea. Here, she cannot be “just a phase” (Kwak) in the life, as the Chairman Yoo claimed, demonstrating a position of the community, whereas the female position is secondary. Thus, Mu-ju also comprises a strong personality, who sees her life impossible without her beloved person.
A Love vs. Cultural Production as a Whole
To summarize, A Love really deserves to be called a cultural means of “widening of the mind and of the spirit” (“Best Jawaharlal Nehru Quotes” n. p.). This Korean remake of the modernized story about Romeo and Juliet is able to teach people and not just Koreans. It helps to find preciousness and beauty within the routine life and remain firm with respect to inner principles and despite some difficulties. It conveys that viewers should be goal-oriented and self-responsible. They should not only hope but also do one’s best to improve the life. Undoubtedly, the film does not encourage a suicide as a way to escape of the difficulties encountered. This technique is an exaggeration of a tragedy. Nonetheless, the movie communicates about honesty to its biggest extent in front of people. One cares about and before oneself to avoid misunderstandings, misconceptions, and missed life moments. It provokes a careful thinking over what has been done or not prevented.
Consequently, A Love is worth seeing as a valuable cultural production. What is more, it is worth being understood.