AN INDOMITABLE SLICE OF KOREAN HEART AND SOUL
by Pablo A. Tariman
The joy of watching Asian films is that they bring you closer to your Oriental roots and you discover after the screening that Asian families act and behave the same way in as far as protecting their families is concerned.
The story of Korean director Yoon Je-kyoon’s “Ode To My Father” isn’t anything new but how he made the storytelling so compelling makes it totally absorbing than the rest of Asian melodramas.
The backdrop of “Ode To My Father” is the Korean war of the early 50s where a father and his daughter get separated from his wife, his two sons and another daughter.
Before the gripping separation where thousands of Koreans clamber a US ship to escape Chinese invasion, father admonishes his other son to take care of the family while he looks for the missing daughter.
One must say that this part of the film with war ships and thousands stranded at sea in winter gives the film a good historic focus. Looking at those sea of Korean humanity and with their abodes bombarded with bombs and later eaten by flames in the background, you once again feel the senselessness of war and what we pay for them.
While father went on to look for missing daughter, the rest of the family settle in a port city where the sister of the patriarch tends a store.
The rest of the story zeroes on the son who became head of the family through thick and thin and who didn’t give up the hope that they will still see their missing father and youngest sister.
How the poor son (played by Hwang Jung-min)
coped as family provider is the stuff of a family drama worthy of Pangako Sa’yo.
All his life he thought of his father (played by Jung Jin-young) and the promises he should keep.
He finds love while working in a coal mine in Germany and returns to Korea to start his family. But trying to raise extra money for the wedding of his sister, he accepts another job in war-torn Vietnam where he suffered a major leg injury.
At the twilight of his life still hoping to see his father, he reflects on what might have been. Destiny is a bit kinder to him as he is reunited with the missing sister more than three decades later.
But he misses his father dearly enough and this keeps him looking at his portrait while drinking alone.
This film has a good slice of family drama with Korean history as the larger backdrop.
Actors Hwang Jung-min and Yunjin Kim delineated their roles to the hilt but never losing their grip on domestic humor.
The film score of Lee Byung-woo neutralized the domestic melodrama but it was the cinematography of Choi Young-hwan that gave the film an encompassing milieu on which one viewed how the children of war coped.
This film has the heart of Lino Brocka and one is not surprised as — in one interview — the director said he followed his heart (more than his mind) in finishing the film.
There is more than a slice of Korean sensibility in this film and more than a slice of Korean history to complete the picture.
One must say that this film is a perfect treat for those who want to observe Father’s Day.
“Ode To My Father” opens the Korean film festival on June 17 in all SM cinemas.