Saturday, 12 October 2013

Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001) - ★★★½

Director: Dae-Seung Kim
Writers: Eun-nim Ko
Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Eun-ju Lee, Hyeon-soo Yeo, Soo-hyun Hong, Mi-seon Jeon

What if our souls lived on after we die, and the people who touched our souls will reunite with us in another life? That's the key theme to this unique and beautiful film. It's hard for me to find words to describe how I feel about Bungee Jumping of Their Own. It's certainly different, yet I can already tell that I'll never forget it. It's not a film about a gay or straight relationship, it's about the eternal love that two people share. It's a bold film that has many masterful elements and many flaws. I didn't realise how much this film moved me until I found out the leading actress, Eun-ju Lee, committed suicide in 2005. The news broke my heart... I really liked this film. If I look at it from an unbiased point of view, it was a good film that could have been better.

It starts off in 1983, where we're introduced to In-woo Seo (Byung-hun Lee). After sharing an umbrella with the beautiful Tae-hee In (Eun-ju Lee), they begin a deep, caring, romantic relationship. Fast forward to the year 2000, and things have changed quite dramatically. He's become a high school teacher, one that is not only haunted by his past feelings for Tae-hee, but his newfound feelings for one of his students. That student being a male. At first it may seem wrong, but it really is a touching story.

The awkwardness is strong... yet it still makes me happy!

At the start, the film thrived on awkward scenes. In-woo is such a naïve, innocent character. He's so clueless about how to socially interact or 'be cool' around girls. In a way, he reminded me of Charlie Chaplin's iconic little character The Tramp. However, I don't enjoy watching people squirm in awkwardness. There are so many awkward moments between In-woo and Tae-hee, it all became a bit annoying. That's just how the story is, and how the characters are. It didn't tickle my funny bone, but it did do quite the opposite. It was awkward on purpose, but it resulted in a lack of loving chemistry between the two leads.

This film's greatest attribute for me was the way it always kept me intrigued, waiting for what would or could happen next. It started taking the strangest turn, going from an awkward formulaic romance to some kind of forbidden lust angle. As the tide started turning, the movie really began to get into its stride and become unique. I've never seen anything quite like it. We're introduced to this man in 1983, then we see what he has become in the year 2000. There's such a stark difference in the character, one can't help but wonder whether he's just developed the change or if he always had certain tendencies within himself. All I know is that it was done in a very convincing, sympathetic way. What should have been 'strange' turned out to be purely interesting.

In regards to my previous paragraph, I have to say that things eventually become strange. We then learn that there's more to this little 'forbidden lust' thing than we thought. It turns out that it's not a question of attraction or sexuality, but rather a question of love. Physical attraction? Please... This is soul attraction! "It's not because I love you. It's because all I can do is love you... I'll love you forever." Now that is what I call a romantic line! -Sigh- If only life were really that romantic.

There's a quote from the movie that really made me smile. "I would say that your curiosity in the same sex should be taken comfortably, like it's a part of human nature." Now that is a line I hope many young confused teens get to hear. It's rare to see a film acknowledge this, especially from a character that is a doctor. Who knows, maybe this film has the power to change a young person's life for the better, and aid them in accepting their sexuality. In that respect, it's quite an important film for South Korea and their youth.

As for the technical aspects, everything is beautifully crafted. The music is absolutely gorgeous. It uplifts scenes, making the emotion in them pack a powerful punch. I loved the cinematography, which ranges from bird-eye-view camera angles to sweeping landscape shots of New Zealand. The best thing about South Korean cinematographers is that they know how and when to shoot close-ups on faces. It does wonders for the emotional performances. As for the performances, they were all really effective and believable for the most part. There were times of frigidness, or a lapse of chemistry between some actors, but it didn't really faze me in the grand scheme of things.

My verdict: it's a good film that, in the right hands, could be a masterpiece. It just didn't sweep me into their romantic world, because their romance wasn't completely effective or believable. I think what was missing here was some kind of natural chemistry between the leads. An example of perfect chemistry would be Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It had a crazy, unbelievable story... but it was really touching because of how much their relationship seemed real. In Bungee Jumping of Their Own, the romance should have taken me on an extremely emotional journey (because the story is good enough to do that). While I truly enjoyed the journey, I feel like I should have been more moved by the experience.

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