The Flower in Hell (Ji-oghwa) (1958)|
Director : Shin Sang-Okk
Production Company : Seoul Films Co., Ltd
Date of Theatrical Release : 1958-04-20
Running Time : 100 min.
Opening Theater : Sigong Theater
Genre : Melodrama
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Lee Jeong-Seon
Producer : Shin Sang-Okk
Executive Producer : Hwang Nam
Director of PhotoGraphy : Kang Beom-Ku
Gaffer : Lee Kyu-Chang
Music : Sohn Mok-In
Art Director : Song Baek-Kyu
Editor : Kim Young-Hee
Sound/Recording : Lee Kyeong-Sun
Kim Hak, Choi Eun-Hee, Cho Hae-Won
Young-sik (Kim Hak) and his gang, who live in a red light town that caters to U.S. troops, make a living by raiding U.S. military warehouses and selling the stolen goods on the black market. Dong-sik (Cho Hae-won), arriving in Seoul in search of his brother Young-sik, reunites with him at the market and joins him in the red light town. Dong-sik tries to persuade Young-sik to return to their hometown, where his mother awaits them, but Young-sik tells him to go on by himself. Young-sik then asks Sonya (Choi Eun-hee) to accompany him to his hometown and marry him there once they manage to make a big score. But Sonya has her heart set on Dong-sik, and one night during a dance party, she seduces the younger brother while Young-sik and his gang are out on a raid. Sonya and Dong-sik enjoy a tryst by the river, but are discovered in the act by Young-sik. When Young-sik and company set off to rob a U.S. military transport train, Sonya reports the crime to the military police in order to make off with Dong-sik. Pursued by the military police, Young-sik is embroiled in a gunfight and barely gets away when a truck overturns. Sonya, appearing on the scene, is stabbed to death by Young-sik, who dies himself of a gunshot wound after asking Dong-sik to take care of their mother. In the end, Dong-sik goes back to his hometown with a prostitute named Judy (Kang Seon-hee), who has been longing to marry him.
"A spectacular depiction of the post-war neo-colonialist mentality against the backdrop of a military base town, with a plot that centers around the most seductive femme fatale in Korean cinematic history"
The Flower in Hell, complete with a train chase between smugglers and American soldiers and a scene set in an opulent dance hall, was the first film to give audiences a true glimpse of director Shin Sang-ok's talent for recreational movies. In "Madame Freedom and The Flower in Hell: Female Sexuality as the Signifier of Modernity and Fascination in the 1950s," a movie critic, Ju Yu-shin, associates prostitutes who serviced American soldiers (known as "yanggongju" or "foreigner's whore" in Korean), in their function as the fascinating signifier of modernity, with the image of New Women. Women sell their sex to Imperialist soldiers, while men steal from the U.S. military PX in order to procure capital. Women, aligned with Westernization and modernization, are displayed as seductive spectacles (Sonya is often rendered into a fixed image through the objectifying gaze of the camera and a deliberate use of soft focus) exposing a surplus of sexuality, but through them, the men of the neo-colonial landscape experience anxiety regarding their colonized condition and castigate the "morally-debauched"prostitute. The military base town is a chaotic place unsettled by the sudden influx of Western mass culture; as such, it is a materialistic space that is at once seductive and bewildering. Ju Yu-sin argues that the narrative of The Flower in Hell, which unfolds in a military base town, depicts the relationship between colonized men and colonized women rather than that between colonizing men and colonized women. By punishing women and reinforcing the bond among men, he explains, the film relegates women to the lowest class of subalterns. That is, it resolves male anxiety by suturing the chain of associations linking modernity, Westernization, women, and sexual excess with a narrative closure that consists in a return to tradition, as symbolized by the rural hometown. The ambivalent vacillation between fascination and anxiety revealed in The Flower in Hell becomes crystalized in the then-groundbreaking train chase sequence. As a product of modernity, the train provides a breathtaking spectacle, but its sudden sense of speed induces vertigo.
- Because of budget constraints, the party scene in the U.S. military base was reportedly shot at a real party that the cast and crew had snuck into, and the scenes showing the landscape of Seoul were shot virtually documentary-style.
Director Bio: Shin Sang-ok (1926-2006)
Shin Sang-ok, who was an icon of Korean cinema during the 1960s, is one of the most significant producer-directors in Korean film history. After graduating from Gyeongseong Middle School and Tokyo Art School, he worked under director Choi In-kyu as an assistant director and in 1952, made his directorial debut with The Evil Night (Ag-ya). He became recognized as one of the greatest Korean producer-directors of his era with the stunning success of Seong Chun-hyang (Seong Chun-hyang) (1961) and ran Shin Film Studios, once called "Half the Korean Movie Industry." But his close relationship with the political regime which was the basis for the founding and success of Shin Film Studios began to fade, and with the government's cancellation of his license, he lost Shin Film Studios where he produced his movies and which he valued more than his life. In 1978, he was kidnapped to North Korea along with his wife Choi Eun-hui and produced films such as Salt (Sogeum) there. The two dramatically escaped North Korea in 1986 and after residing in the United States, moved to South Korea where director Shin Sang-ok taught students and prepared to undertake Genghis Khan, which he thought would be the pinnacle of his lifetime of film. But he passed away on April 11th, 2006, without being able to bring his plans to fruition. In all, he directed 75 movies and produced 250 movies.