Aje Aje Bara Aje (Aje Aje Bara Aje) (1989)|
Director Im Kwon-Taek
Production Company Tae Heung Films Co., Ltd
Date of Rate 1989-02-03
Date of Theatrical Release 1989-03-03
Running Time 134 min.
Opening Theater Dan Seong Sa Theater
Writer Han Seung-Won
Screenplay(Adaptation) (Han Seung-Won)
Producer Lee Tae-Won
Director of PhotoGraphy Koo Jung-Mo
Gaffer Cha Jeong-Nam
Art Director Do Yong-Wu
Editor Park Sun-Deok
Kang Su-Yeon, Jin Young-Mi, Yoo In-Chon, Han Ji-Il
Sun-nyeo (Kang Soo-yeon) has been traveling the country after running away from home. She meets a monk named Wun-bong (Jeon Mu-song) and learns that he is her own father, who joined the Buddhist order to expiate for the sins he committed in the Vietnam War. After traveling with him for a while, Sun-nyeo leaves him without a word. On her way to her father's temple in Gangwon-do, she meets Jong-hyeon (Yu In-chon), a school teacher who enjoys the adoration of his female students, and ends up accompanying him to Buyeo. Jong-hyeon is still grieving for his wife, who was executed by firing squad during the Gwangju Democratization Movement, even though she was pregnant at the time. To carry on her legacy, Jong-hyeon plans to write an epic poem about the fall of the kingdom of Baekjea history written from the loser's, rather than the winner's, point of view. Jong-hyeon and Sun-nyeo stay in the same boarding house. But when the news reaches the school, he is forced to resign his post and Sun-nyeo becomes a monk under the tutelage of Monk Eun-seon (Yoon In-ja).
Jin-sung (Jin Young-mi), another of Monk Eun-seon's disciples, believes that enlightenment must be reached through solitary mediation and self-enlightenment. In this, she clashes with Sun-nyeo, who thinks that a monk's training should take place through experience of the secular world. At Monk Eun-seon's recommendation, Jin-sung begins attending college to gain worldly experience. Wu Jong-nam (Kim Se-jun) cavils with her at every turn, arguing that the true path to enlightenment lies among the masses who are suffering under the iron fist of despotism. Meanwhile, Sun-nyeo saves a man named Pak Hyun-wu (Han Ji-il), who attempts to kill himself out of despair at being a victim of the "guilty by association" law. Hyun-wu, who has committed many an evil deed in his life, vows to turn over a new leaf and insists that he absolutely needs Sun-nyeo to make a clean start. When this causes a scandal in the temple, Sun-nyeo is compelled to break her vows and leave with him. Sadly, Hyun-wu soon dies in a mine cave-in, and Sun-nyeo miscarries her baby.
Jin-sung sets off on a solitary journey of meditation in order to answer the question posed to her by Monk Eun-seon. When she runs into Sun-nyeo, who is following a path that is so different from her own, she is unable to understand her fellow disciple and continues on her way. Receiving word that Monk Eun-seon is gravely ill, Jin-sung and Sun-nyeo return to the temple. Monk Eun-seon, who has been quietly encouraging Sun-nyeo as she carried on her spiritual training in the secular world, expresses a dying wish for Sun-nyeo to be re-accepted into the temple, but everyone else treats Sun-nyeo with cold disdain. After the funeral, Sun-nyeo gathers her teacher's remains and prepares to leave. She tells Jin-sung that she will make 1,000 pagodas all over the country and house Monk Eun-seon's ashes in each, to shine the light of hope for people in the belief that she can save their souls in the secular world. Jin-sung is still unable to understand her, and Sun-nyeo sets off into world once more.
"The culmination of Im Kwon-taek's Buddhist films, Aje Aje Bara Aje features a passionate performance by Kang Soo-yeon, who shaved her head for the role"
Aje Aje Bara Aje is based on Han Seung-won's novel of the same title, and was even adapted for the big screen by the author himself. The first movie to be produced by Tae Heung Films, it became the focus of much attention for the fact that Kang Soo-yeon, who had recently received a Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival for her work in Surrogate Mother (Ssibat-I, 1986), had shaved her head for the role of Sun-nyeo. Im Kwon-taek, who had gradually been garnering recognition for his movies both within and outside Korea, reportedly planned Aje Aje Bara Aje with a view to screening it at various international film festivals, including Cannes and Moscow, due to his concerns about its box office potential. From today's vantage point, Im Kwon-taek's final Buddhist film appears to integrate the themes of its two predecessors Mandara (Mandala, 1981) and Bhikhuni (Biguni, 1984), the latter of which was never completed due to vehement objection from the Buddhist community and Han Seung-won's literary original. Regarding his decision to make Aje Aje Bara Aje the last of his films about Buddhism, the director explained, "[Now that Aje Aje Bara Aje has been made,] I have nothing more to say. I made it clear through this movie that I support the ways of Mahayana Buddhism, and that's that." By expanding on Mandara, which explored Hinayana Buddhism, and focusing on the lives of female monks, which informed the abortive Bhikhuni, in his third and final Buddhist film, Im Kwon-taek speaks with a clear voice about the Mahayana path he credits and supports. This is why the contrast and conflict between the respective paths pursued by Jin-sung and Sun-nyeo take on such importance in Aje Aje Bara Aje. With the exception of Sun-nyeo's flashback, which explains her personal background, the entire movie consists of Jin-sung's pursuit of the Hinayana path and Sun-nyeo's practice of the Mahayana path, juxtaposed through parallel editing. For Jin-sung, her own quest for truth and enlightenment is of paramount importance, whereas Sun-nyeo seeks to attain enlightenment by saving her fellow beings. To the end, their diverging philosophies remain unreconciled. But Sun-nyeo endeavors to embrace even the intransigent Jin-sung. Here, the movie's focus lies unmistakably on Sun-nyeo's path and supports her Mahayana philosophy of living in the secular world in order to deliver its inhabitants from worldly suffering
What is interesting is that her acts of deliverance invariably take men as their object, and thus occur in a considerably sexual manner. It is deeply suggestive that Im Kwon-taek's Buddhist films exhibit a gender-based difference in the way his characters pursue enlightenment: Mandara features male monks who follow the Hinayana path, while Aje Aje Bara Aje emphasizes the Mayahana way through the story of female monks. The three men who figure importantly in Sun-nyeo's life are her father, who suffers from the aftermath of the Vietnam War; Jong-hyeon, who lost his wife during the Gwangju Democratization Movement; and Hyun-wu, the son of a North Korean guerilla and a victim of the "guilty by association" law. Through these three men, the director aptly inserts aspects of modern Korean history into his film. At the same time, he comments on student movements against Korea's then-despotic government through Jin-sung's experiences in college. Sun-nyeo apparently becomes a medium for healing the wounds of (male) history by sacrificing her own body. She enters into the Mahayana path to continue her father's final revelation, enables Jong-hyeon to write his epic poem, and saves Hyeon-wu's life at the expense of her own path. Aje Aje Bara Aje effectively realizes Im Kwon-taek's vision by deftly marrying its advocacy of Mahayana Buddhism with commentary on contemporary social issues, but it is also highly problematic in its gender-biased view regarding the agency and object of deliverance.
- Adapted from Han Seung-won's novel of the same title
- When the film was submitted to the Moscow International Film Festival, South Korea and Russia had yet to establish diplomatic relations. As a result, the cast and crew had to enter Russia by way of Japan and France.
- By adding a Best Actress accolade from the Moscow International Film Festival to her previous honor at the Venice Film Festival (Best Actress, for Surrogate Mother), Kang Soo-yeon cemented her place as a world-class actress.
Director Bio: Im Kwon-taek (1936- )
He began his filmmaking career as prop assistant to the lighting assistant, going through the traditional apprenticeship system of Chungmuro to become a film director. And in 1962, he made his directorial debut with Farewell Tumen River(Dumangang-a Jal Itgeora), an action film that deals with the plight of the Independence Army of Manchuria. He made Weeds(Jabcho), Mismatched Nose (Jjagko), and The Family Pedigree (Jogbo) during the 1970s and with his movies of the 1980s, Kilsodeum(Gilsotteum), Ticket (Tiket), Surrogate Mother (Ssibat-i) and Mandara (Mandala), gradually became recognized for his artistry and craftsmanship. He met Lee Tae-won and began working with Taeheung Film Studios starting with his 1989 film Aje Aje Bara Aje (Aje Aje Bara Aje) and continued to work consistently with the studio from then on. He achieved box office success with his The General's Son (Janggun-ui adeul) series and became a nationally recognized figure with the then unparalleled box office success of Sopyonje(Seopyeonje). He won many national and international awards for his works that dealt with traditional Korean themes and motives and many retrospectives of his works were held abroad. In 2002, he won the prize for best director at the Cannes Film Festival with his work, Chihwaseon(Chihwaseon) and in 2005, won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Berlin Film Festival for his lifetime effort in film