BIFF: Han Gong-Ju 한공주 (2013) – South Korea [World Premiere]
Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 10th October 2013
Director: Lee Su-Jin
Writer: Lee Su-Jin
Starring: Chun Woo-Hee, Jung In-Sun, Lee Young-Ran, Kim So-Young
Reviewed at the World Premiere at 2013 Busan International Film Festival (October 2013)
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“Han Gong-Ju” is an exciting and intriguing debutant feature from director Lee Su-Jin. The film starts off slowly, but grows onto you without noticing and by the end of the film, you are totally engrossed with the situation at hand. This is a wonderful piece of character exploration of how a young girl deals with the issue of gang rape, the death of a friend and how society views the issue itself. What sets “Han Gong-Ju” apart from the rest of its genre is its ability to tell a story from a variety of angle and presenting the situation as objective as the director can be. Director Lee never tries to exaggerate the situation to provoke emotions, nor do we see the graphic rape sequences that some of the audience may be craving, but the show not tell principle is put to great purpose and in turn creating an emotionally engrossing tale that is equally deep in its underlying message.
Chun Woo-Hee (who was in the brilliant film “Sunny”) stars as the title character, the victim, the accused, the girl in the centre of attention. What makes Chun’s performance so underrated yet wonderful is her ability to hide her emotions behind her raw eyes. There is a certain level of anger in her eyes that shows how she struggles to deal with her past. Moving on is an issue that director Lee tries to express to the audience and when Chun finally is able to move on in a bed of sea swimming across the pacific, both literally and figuratively, the audience is undoubtedly moved and affected. Chun has shown enough potential for more dramatic roles in the future and most definitely one to watch out for in the future. Veteran Lee Young-Ran (“A Werewolf Boy”) is always steadily brilliant as the sympathetic guardian, although nothing is really known about her character and past.
All in all, “Han Gong-Ju” is a though-provoking film that deals with relevant issues within the Korean society. Rape is an universal theme and how different society looks upon it is still a cause for concern. The manner how the victim has to deal with not just what has happened, but rather the gang of rapist’s parents, society pressure, making new friends and the struggle to move on are all expressed within this wonderful little film. With a good performance to boot in the shape of Chun Woo-Hee and quality story telling by director Lee Su-Jin making “Han Gong-Ju” a little Korea piece of gem. (Neo 2013)
I rated it 8/10.