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The Sea Knows (Hyeonhaetaneun algo itda) (1961)

Director : Kim Ki-Young
Production Company : Korea Art Movie Co., Ltd
Date of Rate : 1961-11-10
Running Time : 120 min.
Genre : Melodrama

Staff :
Writer : Han Wun-Sa
Opening Theater : Myeong Bo Theater
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Kim Ki-Young
Producer : Park Won-Seok
Executive Producer : Kim Ki-Young
Director of PhotoGraphy : Choi Ho-Jin
Gaffer : Yoon Chang-Hwa
Music : Han Sang-Ki
Art Director : Park Seok-In
Editor : Oh Young-Keun
Sound/Recording : Han Yang

Cast(Actor/Actress) :
Kong Midori, Kim Wun-Ha, Lee Sang-Sa, Lee Ye-Chun

Synopsis

In January of 1944, Korean students are conscripted into the Japanese military's transportation unit in Nagoya, Japan. Among them are Aro-un (Kim Wun-ha) and Inoue (Lee Sang-sa), two young men who came to be regarded as "dangerous characters"after speaking insolently to the governor-general. Mori (Lee Ye-chun), a soldier with seniority over Aro-un, treats him as less than a human being and torments him by forcing him to lick dung off the sole of a soiled boot or making him bark like a dog. Although the Japanese emphasize their armed forces'50-year history and maltreat the conscripts, Aro-un and Inoue scorn such a tradition. One day, Aro-un meets a Japanese woman named Hideko (Kong Midori) and they fall in love. He takes every opportunity to see Hideko whether he is on or off duty, telling her of his hardships in the military and receiving solace from her in return. Hideko's mother (Joo Jeung-nyeo) objects vehemently to their relationship, but they wed in a simple ceremony. Aro-un deserts his unit just before the U.S. air raid and wanders the streets as the bombs rain down. After the unit and the city have been devastated by the air raid, the Japanese military cremates the bodies en masse without allowing family members to see the remains of their loved ones, on the pretext that the casualties are classified information. As the enraged populace watches the flames spread over the pile of bodies, Aro-un walks out from among the corpses and comes toward Hideko.

Notes

"A distinctive film that pioneered new ground for Korean cinema" (Korea Times, November 12, 1961)
The Sea Knows is a war movie from director Kim Ki-young. Dealing with the Korea-Japan relationship at a time when diplomatic relations between the two countries had yet to be restored, the film generated much debate at the time of its release and enjoyed tremendous success at the box office. Although it appears somewhat aberrant or divergent when considered in relation to the rest of Kim Ki-young's oeuvre, The Sea Knows is deeply embedded with Kim's distinctive insight into humanity. In generic terms, it is a war movie or military film on the surface, but its ultimate objective lies in the exploration of power, exploitation, and primal human nature. This is not unrelated to the fact that the movie has virtually no outdoor scenes, and instead restricts itself to the military barracks and the interior of Hideko's house. In particular, the scenes that take place in the barracks pose questions about the sadistic nature of power, which tends to drives itself into madness; the relationship between power and sexual desire; and the domination and submission that subsist according to rank and status even within the same power group. In the midst of war, the ruling Japanese army makes sport of protagonist Aro-un "at whim." On the one hand, this depiction of the Japanese military reveals the state of Japan's imperialistic ambitions, which had been building to a fanatical pitch in the months leading up to the Second World War. But on a more allegorical level, the Japanese military can also be interpreted as a symbol of "power" in general. In this context, one can view Aro-un as an individual thrown into a gigantic web of power. What saves Aro-un is the Japanese woman Hideko. As a place of rest, Hideko's house contrasts with the military barracks. The love shared by Hideko and Aro-un gives birth to a new life, even amidst the insanity of war. The primal human impulse, or desire, to survive is stronger than either power or war. At the end of the movie, Aro-un, who has been thought dead, steps out from among a mountain of bodies and walks toward Hideko, in a scene that powerfully demonstrates director Kim Ki-yeong's affirmation of humanity's primal life force.

Afterword:

- Adapted for the big screen from a Sunday drama series of the same title, written by Han Wun-sa for KA Broadcasting Station.

Director Bio: Kim Ki-young (1921-1998)

Through his horror movies, The housemaid (Hanyeo) and Chungnyeo (Chungnyeo), director Kim Ki-young created a unique visual world with materials that the limited visual language in films in the 60s dared not approach. After the Korean Independence, Kim Ki-young began making a name for himself through his involvement in the theatre class at Seoul National University. Just after the Korean War, he first began directing propaganda movies for the United States Information Service and made his commercial directorial debut through The Box of Death (Jugeom-ui sangja) (1955). He made realistic movies heavily influenced by the Italian Neo-realists such as The First Snow (Choseol) (1958) and A defiance of teenager (10dae-ui banhang) (1959). But in the 60s, he began making his trademark expressionistic and psychological films which reflected the misanthropic, and destructive desire that came from the modernization of Korean society through the use of surreal sets and lighting.
The first of such films was The housemaid (Hanyeo). Although his movies seem to lack rational and logical reason and though his works cannot be pinned down or easily classified, Kim Ki-young is one of the most significant directors in the history of Korean cinema. Kim Ki-young passed away in a fire in his residence at the age of 77 as he was working on his comeback work.