Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Haeundae - the movie, the real thing

Korea isn't a big country. The population density is like a tight-knit sock; no ease, no stretch, you just have to fit your foot to fit the cloth. With limited places to go during the holiday season, the density jumps even higher. In-san-in-hae (인산인해), literally 'people mountain, people sea' is one of the terms that accurately describe popular vacation spots on the peninsula.

Haeundae Beach is the most popular beach in the port city of Busan, the second largest metropolis in Korea. People flock there en masse during the summer holidays and locals endure the annual population increase with stoic attitudes, even joking that the sea becomes "a public bath" during that period.

With a beautiful coastline and other attractions, it actually is a popular tourist spot all year 'round. A high number of people reside in the area, it being a bustle of commercial activity.

There are a lot of stories to be told about Haeundae. Film director Yoon Je Gyun, who is mostly known for his lighthearted comedies, tried his hand at telling a compelling one.

Haeundae is a blockbuster movie entwining the stories of various families in the area facing a disastrous tsunami. Boasting an incredible cast, it is currently setting Korean box office records beating out several Hollywood films in the process.
(I haven't heard of available English subtitled versions yet. Will keep you posted.)

I honestly went because of the cast. Most are "real" actors, those who you can absolutely rely on, those whose persona melts completely into the character. You know they won't disappoint.

I was disappointed, however, by the editing. The main message was clear, the acting great, the comic moments truly funny, but I felt something was greatly lacking.
Separate scenes are memorable but the whole is somewhat choppy. There were scenes that seemed spliced together without a shared core, the emotional buildups too forced. The little and seemingly meaningless details that link the whole together were missing. Had a certain raw quality been intentional it wouldn't have irked me as much but you could tell that it wasn't.

I am the biggest crybaby you'll ever meet (I sniffle and bawl at sappy commercials) but I didn't shed a single tear (not a one!) during this "heart wrenching" disaster movie.
Tells you a lot, doesn't it? I felt no connection whatsoever. Such a waste of acting talent.

On a related note, the movie reminded me of a storm I had witnessed at Haeundae (from a restaurant window) in August 2007. It had been a rather cloudy day, but the angry and fierce rainstorm that barged in was so sudden. Winds whipped at the windows from a quiet calm to a mad frenzy in a matter of minutes.

People were bathing and lounging under beach parasols (notice how closely they're placed together, it's that crowded) one minute and approximately six minutes later they all evacuated, with beach safety staff removing the parasols at lightning speed.
I was equally impressed at the agility and fast reaction of the staff as I was at the ferocity of the sudden storm. Every time I clicked the shutter there was a new scene happening below.

In chronological order:

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