Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sangsoo, 2017): South Korea

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Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Kim Minhee returns to the big screen after her scrumptuous portrayal of Lady Hideko in Chan-Wook Park’s The Handmaiden (2016). Kim, as Younghee, is an actor out-of-work, in On the Beach at Night Alone (Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja). Officially, Younghee has decided to take some time off after having a tumultuous affair with her last film’s director, a married man.

Written and directed by Hong Sangsoo, On the Beach at Night Alone, is a think-piece. Utilizing long takes and a stationary camera, Hong gives the viewer an intimate perspective of Younghee as she grapples with issues of love and pursuit. Unbeknownst to her, she has been the subject of tabloid rumors.

Skillfully shot by Directors of Photography, Kim Hyungkoo and Park Hongyeol, the natural beauty and energies of the characters and of the film’s mise-en-scene are highlighted.

In allowing the characters time and space, Hong has written some fairly heady dialogue in the first half of the film, as Younghee explores the metaphysical possibility of her lover following her if he misses her as much as she misses him. Younghee is a woman of some mystery and has an abundance of desire.

In the second half of the film, Younghee searches for meaning. She revisits old stomping grounds and reconnects with friends from her past. While not seemingly a big imbiber of alcohol, Younghee allows herself to be coerced at first and then joyfully partaking while reveling in alcohol’s mind-liberating properties. And, as is usually the case, too much of a good thing can have deleterious effects.

Younghee, speaking from her now blemished heart and finding courage with her alcohol Soju consumption, has harsh and inconsiderate words for those in her close company.

Sharing a needed, tender kiss with another female, Younghee’s vulnerabilty reaches its climax. Afterwards, she retreats to the beach at night alone.

On the Beach at Night Alone is a beautiful film from start to finish. The exploration of love and the affective role it has in life provides the groundwork for the protagonist’s truth and life revelations to unfold. Warmly recommended.

*Featured photo credit: Kim Jinyoung © 2017 Jeonwonsa Film Co./Berlinale.de

 

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