LOVERS VANISHED a.k.a. THE DAY BEFORE [POK POONG JOEN YA | 폭풍전야]

http://www.lastnight.co.kr/

KOREA 2010  Directed & Written by: Cho Chang-Ho Cast: Kim Nam-Gil, Woo Seul Hye Hwang, Jeong Yun-Min, Nam Sung-Jin

A love triangle goes horribly wrong. He sleeps with him, while also being romantically involved with her. When she finds out about it she is shocked (naturally) and kills her rival more or less accidentally with a rifle. Kind of too late: as a result of the affair he spreads the disease and infects her. In return he takes the blame for the killing and goes to jail. That’s where he (a magician of some sort) meets another supposedly innocent murderer: Su-In, a chef, who is convicted for having killed his wife but says he hasn’t done it.

Sang-Byun, the magician, proposes a deal: he will teach Su-In how to vanish from the face of the earth (or at least from prison) if he in return goes and visits his former lover Mi-Ya and lets him know how she is. Su-In, after some odd twists including him getting infected with AIDS on purpose to get released from jail, finally breaks out of prison and finds Sang-Byun’s ex. Without telling her who he is and that he in fact knows Sang-Byun he starts living at her place and work for her as chef. The fragile relationship is beginning to show cracks however as soon as the police who are on his trail are getting a bit too close, a weird neighbor starts to get suspicious of them and his true identity is about to be revealed after all.

LOVERS VANISHED is not a happy-go-lucky romantic movie, but follows the tradition of some of the darker works from Korea about lives that are going only one direction: downhill. In that respect I must say the movie looks and feels tres Korean. I cannot rationalize that or claim that there is such a thing as a “national identity” to movies per se (those who have studied film and arts will know that), but it is undeniable that LOVERS VANISHED is as Korean as it gets.

To a certain degree this is a good thing: LOVERS VANISHED isn’t compromising and confronts us with a very depressing story that at no time gears towards a happy end. The movie is not purely nihilistic though and offers glimpses of hope here and there, but whatever has been set in motion will also produce certain consequences in the long run.

LOVERS VANISHED has some truly magical moments, mean plot twists and gorgeous visuals – that doesn’t make it the new THE PRESTIGE or LOVE LETTER though. Something about the motivations and actions of the characters feels permanently wrong.

It is not that stringent logic or predictable behavior is something I’d be looking for, but some things are just really hard to swallow. The whole AIDS scare is brutal, but it is difficult to believe that the female victim would still be emotionally involved with the magician (or later even with Su-In). The random rape scene then is unnecessary for the story development, that’s why we can’t be too delighted with the fact that the rapist probably ends up having AIDS too.

Some things are too constructed (like the mentioned neighbor), the magician’s trickery (which never actually contributes to the story) and the symbolic cooking (if we would wanted to see a movie about the sexual aspect of food we’d be watching TAMPOPO).

LOVERS VANISHED is fascinating, but not satisfying. It’s a big tragedy but as all big tragedies it’s supposed to actually tell us about the mysteries of our existence and show us a way out – provide proof that there’s a reason to live despite this overwhelming pessimism.

LOVERS VANISHED gives us that reason in a way (love is the answer, as so often), but it just feels wrong. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong everything. This is not a love song.
This is not a love song.
This is not a love song.
This is not a love song.

J.


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One Response to “LOVERS VANISHED a.k.a. THE DAY BEFORE [POK POONG JOEN YA | 폭풍전야]”

  1. KIMCHI FLAVOR: LOVERS VANISHED a.k.a. THE DAY BEFORE [POKPUNGJEONYA | 폭풍전야] « GONIN MOVIE BLOG Says:

    […] READ TE FULL REVIEW HERE! ———— Life’s a drama: LOVERS VANISHED tells the story of a Chef who […]

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