Goryeojang (Goryeojang) (1963)|
Director : Kim Ki-Young
Production Company : Korea Art Films Co., Ltd
Date of Rate : 1963-03-15
Running Time : 90 min.
Opening Theater : Myong-Bo Center
Genre : Historical Drama
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Kim Ki-Young
Producer : Kim Ki-Young
Executive Producer : Choi Yong, Kim Young-Cheol, Song Seon-Keun
Director of PhotoGraphy : Kim Deuk-Jin
Gaffer : Seo Byeong-Su
Music : Han Sang-Ki
Art Director : Park Seok-In
Editor : Kim Ki-Young
Sound/Recording : Han Yang
Kim Jin-Kyu, Joo Jeung-Yeo, Lee Ye-Chun, Jeon Ok, Choi Sam, Kim Bo-Ae, Dokko Sung
A widow, accompanied by her young son Gu-ryeong, moves to a rural village to wed a local man. The people in this village uphold the tradition of "Goryeojang," which dictates that anyone who reaches seventy years of age must relinquish their place at table to their grandchildren and go up the mountain to die. The widow's new husband already has ten sons from his first marriage. The village shaman prophesies that all ten brothers will be killed by Gu-ryeong's hand. When the brothers learn about the prediction, they loose a poisonous snake to kill Gu-ryeong, but he escapes with just a limp. After this incident, Gu-ryeong and his mother receive a small plot of land and leave the family. Thirty years later, Gu-ryeong (Kim Jin-kyu) marries a woman who is unable to speak. The ten brothers rape her; she manages to kill one of them, while Gu-ryeong kills another. Another fifteen years pass, and the villagers suffer a terrible drought. The shaman (Jeon Ok) augurs that it will rain again if Gu-ryeong takes his mother up the mountain according to the old tradition, but he refuses to do so. Unfortunately, his stepbrothers frame him and his old girlfriend Gan-nan for murder, and under threat of death, Gu-ryeong carries his mother (Joo Jeung-nyeo) up the mountain on his back, mistakenly believing the stepbrothers' promise that they will spare him and Gan-nan in exchange. After Gu-ryeong leaves his mother on the mountain and returns to the village, it begins to rain. However, the stepbrothers renege on their promise and kill Gan-nan. Yelling that everything is the shaman's fault, Gu-ryeong cuts down the sacred tree, which falls on the shaman and kills her. He then takes Gan-nan's children and goes to sow in the fields.
"Tradition, or identity, on the verge of a nervous breakdown" (Heo Moon-young)
Goryeojang is Kim Ki-young's most definitive movie from the 1960s, and sheds light on his filmic archetypes. A wide range of his favorite subjects including the rigid cinematic control of space, the problem of humanity's primal desire and sexuality, and the conflict between the modern and the premodern can all be found in it. One of the most distinguishing features of Goryeojang is the fact that all of the scenes, with the exception of an odd shot or two, were filmed on a set. By opting not to conceal the artificiality of the set, Kim Ki-young endowed his film with a kind of theatricality. Upon an artificial set, he created a singular time-space that is unfettered by actual space and time. In this place, which is controlled by humanistic beliefs and human instincts, people make ritualistic sacrifices of live children, throw parents out to die as a matter of course, and murder poses no problem for the community. The only imperative is survival; morality and ethics are not matters for consideration. Although the village appears to be a place that transcends reality, it can also be seen as a place of irrationality and illogic, as the crystallization of everything that is pre-modern and thus must be discarded with the onset of modernity. In this context, it becomes possible to interpret the major conflict of the film as the clash between modernity and tradition, reason and unreason. That is, the aged parent (or the shaman) and the son Gu-ryeong symbolically represent the old and the new, or the pre-modern and the modern, respectively, and the conflict between the two sides of this binary explodes with the cutting down of the ancient tree that stands within the village. Goryeojang plainly displays the peculiar imagination of director Kim Ki-young, who rarely lets himself be bound by any cinematic trend of his time. The grotesque score that plays throughout the film heightens the eerie atmosphere of the film.
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.