The Widow (1955) | Mimangin | London Korean Film Festival 2016

October 18th, 2016
Author: Meredith Taylor

imagesDir: Nam-ok Park | Writer: Bo-ra Lee |Cast: Min-ja Lee, Seong-ju Lee, Tak-kyun Lee, Ai-shim Na, Dong-hu Shin, Yeong-suk Park

90min | Drama | Korea

Nam-ok Park was a Korean athlete who turned her talents to film journalism and eventually to filmmaking. Her feature debut and only film is a tenderly told domestic drama that doesn’t idolise maternal love in its exploration of the realities of postwar life from a female perspective in 1950s Korea. Unfortunately, the final scenes of the film have been lost and so actual outcome remains an eternal enigma.

Young war widow and refugee Shin (Lee Min-ja) has been left to fend for herself and her young daughter Ju (Lee Seong-ju). The financial help she gets from a dutiful married friend of her husband, Lee Seong-jin (Shin Dong-hun), is misinterpreted by his jealous and controlling wife (Park Yeong-suk), who suspects the two of having an affair, intuitively sensing his strong feelings for Shin.

Sensitively-crafted and photographed in the leafy suburbs of Seoul, the film provides insight into the social politics of the day, showing how women were forced to rely on manipulative behaviour due to their lowly status in comparison to men. Rich women, such a Mrs Lee, were able to take lovers to entertain them while their husbands were busily running empires., and Mrs Lee pays a young man called Taek (Lee Taek-kyun), to take her out and about and one day while the two are frolicking on the beach, Taek saves little Ju from drowning in the sea.

Shin meanwhile, is more impressed by Taek’s masculinity than Mr Lee’s romantic gestures and cleverly uses his money to set a business, tempting Taek to move with her and be a business partner, while paying a neighbour to looks after Ju. But the plan falls through when Taek’s former girlfriend suddenly turns up, not having died in the war after all, and Taek is also forced to make a choice between his past love and his future prosperity. There’s nothing new about the message here: that honest women and men will always follow their heart, while weaker souls have to resort to scheming and subterfuge. MT



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