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[20 Korean Films to Look Out for Second Half of 2011] VARANASI

Love Aff air within Terrorist Bombings
Directed by JEON Kyu -hwan
By NA Won-jung
Varanasi, India is one of Hindu’s holy places, a city where both life and death are known to co-exist. For many decades now, terrorist bombings took place here, day after day, with continuous hostile relations between Hindu and Islam sectors. Director JEON, who has been persistently delving into the dark side of Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, through his ‘Town trilogy’— Mozart Town , Animal Town , and Dance Town , couldn’t just let go of an ironic fate of Varanasi. Setting his mind up on experimenting on an unconventional genre, he chose his fourth directorial effort to be a melodrama.
Young-woo (YOON Dong-hwan) is a CEO of a publishing company. Having been married for 10 years, he is having an affair with Su-yeon, an in-house writer. On his wife’s birthday, Young-woo has a hot sexual encounter with Su-yeon and heads home with a birthday gift for his wife, yet she is nowhere to be seen. Around the same time, Young-woo’s wife Ji-young leaves for India to find Karim, an Islam young man whom she met by chance in Korea and fell in love. She heads to a restaurant in Varanasi to meet her lover but shortly after, the suicide bombing takes place there. Young-woo watches the TV news coverage of the bombing by chance and discovers Ji-young covered in ashes in Varanasi on TV. Tracing Ji-young’s footsteps, Young-woo gets on a flight to India having a dim recollection of her involvement with Karim.
Director JEON calls the genre of Varanasi a ‘melodrama within terrorist bombing.’ He says, “There have been too many sugar-coated melodramatic romances out in theaters already. I no longer have any interest in such films. Instead, I wanted to show a story as well as a film language that’s little bit different from the conventional ones. Not only does JEON mix up the temporal relations on the plot in an attempt to create non-traditional melodrama, but he also actively utilizes cross-editing to cover wide range of circumstances involving film’s characters. On-location shoot at Varanasi was also conducted as he engraved on the screen the vivid tragedies of the city that was bombed just two weeks before the shoot began. Varanasi is director JEON’s first, unique yet interesting attempt at melodrama.

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