This year’s London Film Festival spoiled the audience with a great amount of Asian films including a few from South Korea. Apart from subtle drama Nobody’s Daughter Haewon by Hong Sang-soo and the comedy of manners Our Sunhi by the same filmmaker, it’s time to mention Lebanon Emotion by Jung Young-heon, a first-time director, whose personal grief led him to make the film, which he saw as a healing project. Young-heon himself explained that the odd title has nothing to do with Lebanon, the name for the film was taken from a poem by Choi Jeong-Rye. But it’s definitely about emotions.
Jung graduated from the Korean Academy of Film Arts. Before taking on the task of becoming a first-time director, he worked as a DOP on various projects and made a short film entitled Hard Boiled Jesus which picked up the Best Director Prize at the Korean Short Film Competition in 2012. His directorial debut was noticed by the Moscow International Film Festival and won the Best Director Award (source http://www.koreanfilm.or.kr)
Lebanon Emotion opens with a scene at a cemetery where we meet the protagonist Heon Woo (Choi Sung Ho), a young man who celebrates the one- year anniversary of his mother’s death. He decides to spend some time alone and borrows his friend’s apartment, which is close to both the mountain and deer hunting ground. Emotionally drained by the loss of his mother Heon Woon tries to commit suicide. Unsuccessful with the attempt of killing himself he makes up his mind to spend a few days in loneliness and peace. One day, while wondering around the woods, he’s alarmed by a desperate scream. He follows the noise and unexpectedly finds an injured woman, who has just come out of prison. Before being caught in a deer trap she was enjoying her freedom by calling, a thug (Jang Won Young) who mistreated the woman prior to her imprisonment. She abuses the man on the phone without realizing that the criminal is going to come for her. The game of cat and mouse begins.
Hean Woon takes the injured woman to his friend’s flat and nurses her. Their new created bond becomes their ‘life boat’ which takes some of their problems away. They enjoy each others company, unaware of the villain who is just ‘around the corner’ waiting patiently for the girl.
Lebanon Emotion focuses on a few individuals who are constantly running away from their own problems, “their only solutions are either get hurt or fulfill their own satisfaction“. They are well developed, however, it isn’t easy to understand their growing emotional pain. To sum up I did enjoy watching the film. It’s filled with great emotions, the sensitivity of the protagonist, and a bit of violence which is ‘represented’ by Jang Won Young. The acting was good. Choi Sung So’s performance was acceptable as well as Won Young’s one. I also liked the cinematography by Lee Jinkeun, the film was set “in the quiet and desolate snow-swept countryside“, which was a simple and memorable location if you ask me.
The film is worth seeing, however, Jung Young-heon’s Lebanon Emotion is definitely going to divide cinema goers.
There is also an interesting interview with the director on Lebanon Emotion.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Pictures courtesy of Image.net