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Christmas In August: The Conventional Unconventional

1675 words - 7 pages

L. Choi

Christmas in August: the Conventional Unconventional

Following the Korean War, South Korean film industry faced its “Golden Age”, thriving with a series of vibrant, high-quality domestic film productions. While directors during this period produced a body of work as “historically, aesthetically, and politically significant as that of other well-known national film movements such as Italian Neorealism, French New Wave, and New German Cinema” (McHugh and Abelmann 2), the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee in the late 1960s put an end to creative freedom. The South Korean cinema resurfaced in the 1990s, taking a new step and presenting films that mix a variety of genres and different ...view middle of the document...

The power of Christmas in August comes out of what the characters do not say; the subtext of their silence proves more powerful than any words. Christmas in August follows the life of Jung-won, a portrait photographer and owner of a small, local photography shop in a town named Gunsan, diagnosed with a terminal illness. During the short period he has left, he meets Da-rim, a parking officer, and seems to develop an attraction and fondness towards her. With his impending death, Jung-won carries on living his life - accepting as it is - and slowly letting his beloved friends and family learn his illness. However, the movie never dwells on the theme of death. The audience never finds out the precise nature of Jung-won’s illness, making his malady almost irrelevant. Jung-won continues on with his life rather composed, spending his remaining days cleaning up after himself, showing his refusal to be a burden on people around him. When Jung-won drunkenly informs his drinking partner about his condition, his friend believes the news to be a joke. Jung-won, instead of pressing the issue, he laughs it off, determined to enjoy the short time he has left with his friend. The scene shows the audience how Jung-won struggles every day to keep his tranquil and easygoing façade. Throughout the film, Jung-won manages to keep a calm state of mind, along with his immediate family members who hide their emotions because they understand that Jung-won will have a harder time if his own relatives break down. During this difficult time, Da-rim provides the inspiration to make Jung-won possibly fall in love once more for the last time. On top of the age difference between Jung-won and Da-rim, the two characters stand at two vastly different stages of their lives, with Jung-won’s coming to an end and Da-rim’s just beginning. While Jung-won and Da-rim never enter a full-blown romantic relationship, the film focuses on the developing relationship between the two, touching on a series of delightful - and sometimes even awkward - events that occur in a new relationship. While the interplay between Jung-won and Da-rim encounters unexpected interruptions as Jung-won’s condition suddenly worsens, their relationship never jumps on the emotional roller coaster that normally appears in other melodramas. Instead, the two character’s relationship keeps a rather lovely, pleasant sensation throughout, bringing sunshine to a potentially depressing story of death and loss. (Hur, Christmas in August)
Memories - and leaving them - play a significant role in Christmas in August. While humans cannot live forever, pictures and documents hold our emotions and experiences. Jung-won’s occupation as a photographer allows him to be the captor of memories, capturing people’s lives, surroundings, and memories. As Jung-won nears his death, he carries out a series of tasks to help those around him. He painstakingly teaches his elderly father how to use the remote control by writing out the steps...

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