The Hand of Destiny (Unmyeong-ui son) (1954)|
Director : Han Hyeong-Mo
Production Company : Han Hyeong-Mo Production
Date of Theatrical Release : 1954-12-14
Running Time : 85 min.
Opening Theater : Sudo Theater
Genre : Anti-Communism
Producer : Han Hyeong-Mo
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Kim Seong-Min
Director of PhotoGraphy : Lee Seong-Hwi
Gaffer : Lee Han-Chan
Music : Park Si-Chun
Art Director : Lee Bong-Seon
Editor : Han Hyeong-Mo
Sound/Recording : Choi Chil-Bok
Lee Hyang, Yoon In-Ja, Joo Seon-Tae
Margaret, a.k.a. Jeong-ae (Yoon In-ja), is a bar girl and a spy from North Korea. One day, she helps out a college student named Shin Yeong-cheol (Lee Hyang), who has been accused of stealing. Feeling an inexplicable attraction to Yeong-cheol, she takes him home and gives him food and medical attention before sending him on his way. When she runs into him again at the docks, where he has a job unloading cargo, she shows him favor by buying him clothes and shoes, and subtly intimates her feelings for him. They enjoy a period of happiness as lovers, but all the while, Margaret is torn between her identity as a spy and her love for Yeong-cheol. One night, after consummating their love, Margaret learns from Yeong-cheol's ID card that he is a captain in the anti-espionage squad. Traumatized, Margaret purposely avoids Yeong-cheol, and he is tormented by her refusal to see him. Then, Yeong-cheol receives intelligence that a North Korean agent will make contact with a certain woman. He tails the spy, and the two get into a gunfight. Waiting at the rendezvous point, Margaret spots Yeong-cheol, who has come to capture her and her contact, and hides herself. Park (Joo Seon-tae), the leader of the spy cell, decides to use Margaret to eliminate Yeong-cheol. Despite her deep reluctance, she is forced totake the assignment and lure Yeong-cheol. During the course of her attempt to trap Yeong-cheol, he discovers her true identity and feels betrayed, but ultimately resolves to die for the woman he loves. However, Margaret cannot bring herself to shoot him, and takes Park's bullet in his stead. Yeong-cheol kills Park after a prolonged duel. Already wounded from Park's gunshot, Margaret asks Yeong-cheol to let her die by his hand, and he weeps as he fires the fatal shot.
"A pivotal and ambitious work in the history of Korean cinema" (The Dong-A Ilbo, December 19, 1954)
The Hand of Destiny is the second film directed by Han Hyung-mo, following his directorial debut in Breaking the Wall (Seongbyeog-eul tthulhgo, 1949). Although the story of a female spy torn between love and ideology has been an oft-handled subject in Korean cinema over the years, this film is especially notable for having provided the archetype for its numerous antecedents, as well as for the distinction that no other movie has so clearly presented the conflicted identity of a woman split between political ideology and romantic love. Moreover, the fact that Han Hyung-mo, who may well be described as the greatest cinematic technician of the time, not only directed but also edited The Hand of Destiny makes this film a benchmark piece for evaluating the technical level of Korean movies from the period.
This movie is interesting not only for being the first Korean film to tackle the subject of a female spy, but also, as mentioned above, for portraying her existential dilemma as she vacillates between love and ideology (laying aside the question of how profound that dilemma is shown to be) with a relatively high degree of purity. As a result, The Hand of Destiny can be seen as the first "fusion genre film"in Korean history, merging melodrama, anti-communist film, and action flick. This uniqueness is crystallizedin the main character, Margaret/Jeong-ae. In the film, Margaret's image is at once innocent and seductive, as well as decadent. In this respect, it is highly suggestive that Margaret/Jeong-ae possesses two names, each of which embodies a separate personality (Here, we cannot but be reminded of the similarly double-aliased existence of Lee Bang-hee/Lee Myeong-hyeon, played by Kim Yun-jin, in the film Swiri). As Margaret, the female protagonist is bold enough to invite a man she has just met into her room, and to actively seek his love. Both her attire and her apartment, which is luxurious for the time, prefigure the characteristics of later female characters in modern melodrama (the so-called "apres girls"). By contrast, as Jeong-ae, the protagonist exemplifies the tragic and submissive image of women in traditional new-school drama. As the plot progresses, Margaret gradually transforms into Jeong-ae. In the end, as Jeong-ae, the protagonist demonstrates the pinnacle of love and devotion by taking the bullet meant for her lover. Her complex imageextravagant, sophisticated, and provocative on the one hand, innocent and virtuous on the otherlikely reflects the varied fantasies about women held by men at the time.
Even if we set everything else aside, The Hand of Destinyhas ample cinematic significance in that it shows us Korean cinema at the beginning of the 1950s, when the war had come to an end and the domestic film industry was just getting to its feet. (It is the only movie made in 1954 that has been preserved by the Korean Film Archive.)
- Also famous for featuring the first kiss scene in Korea
- The third release from the collection of the Korean Film Archive Collection's classics
- It has been released on DVD
Director Bio: Han Hyeong-mo (1917-1999)
Director Han Hyeong-mo was born in Uiju, Pyeonganbuk-do and studied art at the Shingyeong Art School. He first entered the movie business when he did the art work for his brother's friend, director Choi In-kyu in the movie, Homeless Angel (Jib-eobsneun cheonsa) (1941). Afterward, he gained employment at the Dongbo Film Studios in Japan with the help of Choi In-kyu and learned film techniques. After the Korean Independence, he worked as a director of photography and made his directorial debut in the anticommunist film, Breaking the Wall (Seongbyeog-eul ttulhgo) (1949). During the Korean War he was put in charge of making propaganda films for the Korean military and it was during this time that he honed his craft in photography and directing. After the war, he directed The Hand of Destiny (Unmyeong-ui son) (1954), showing his ability as a genre director. He directed a movie based on Jeong Bi-seok's novel Madame Freedom which caused much social controversy at that time, showing his own special brand of mise-en -scene. Director Han Hyeong-mo began his life in movies as an art director and director of photography. And through his continued interest in mise-en-scene and the technical aspect of films, he created a well-made genre of films, establishing himself as a major director of the 50s. His other works include Hyperbolae of Youth (Double Curve of Youth / Cheongchunssanggogseon) (1956), The Pure Love (Sun-aebo) (1957), The Devil (Ma-in) (1957), I am Alone (Na honjaman-i) (1958), A female boss (Yeosajang) (1959), and My Sister Is a Hussy (Eonni-neun Malgwallyang-i) (1961).