"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm  in  News

Back by:  ifrit1112  on  January 11, 2014 12:31 PM

"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm

"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm

In the Spotlight this Week:"Oasis"byLee Chang-dong

Lee Chang-dong's short filmography contains some of the most potent and honest insight into South Korea's consciousness around. His films explore the cultural, social, and political fears and dreams of a nation and blankets them in individual instances that resonant deep and true."Oasis"was the last film this storytelling Sinatra produced before accepting his term as Korea's Minister of Culture; an award-winning piece that reunites the talent duo ofMoon So-riandSeol Kyeong-gufrom his politically charged and praised drama: "Peppermint Candy" (1999)."Oasis"examines the lives of two mentally impaired individuals and the crippling gaze cast upon them from their families and society at large. It's an atypical romance that is as beautiful to behold as it is uncomfortable to absorb, an empathetic exploration into two young minds that are fumbling around in the dark for that crazy little thing called love.  

Jong-do (Seol Kyeong-gu), a slightly mentally handicapped 28-year-old, has recently been released from prison after serving a two-and-a-half year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. His family are less than thrilled to see him (not bothering even to pick him up, and have also moved apartments since his incarceration) and are anxious at the possible burden and pressure his release will inflict on them. One of the first things Jong-do does is, rather innocently and naively, is visit the home of the family whose father the accident he took responsibility for killed. His intentions are pure (white, like the tofu he eats after being released from prison-a symbolic act and custom in Korea) but the family wants nothing to do with him and his fruit basket. However before he gets shunned, he finds the Gong-ju (Moon So-ri) alone in the family's apartment. Gong-ju has severe cerebral palsy and lives alone in a rundown flat and her relatives only sporadically visit her. Like Jong-do, her family has distanced themselves from her, and minimise their interactions by, for example, paying her neighbours (W200,000/month) to keep her fed. Jong-do, however, is captivated by Gong-ju, and slowly (and after a disturbing sexual encounter) the two seem to lock souls in the most innocent and concentrated fashion imaginable.

The film centres on Korean society's prejudices towards those who have mentally and/or physical abnormalities and the oasis of understanding these two openhearted souls find together. Jong-do and Gong-ju are emotionally rejected by their families, and are tolerated only insofar as they are blood, but no more. Gong-ju, for example, is suppose to be living in a nicer, government sanctioned, apartment in another part of town, but her family resides there instead while Gong-ju lives elsewhere by herself. Her family only bring her to her prescribed dwelling when the social inspectors are due to come around, an event she dresses up for and sadly plays the part.

Outside of the two's cruel families, Lee also names and shames the manner in which Korean society treats such individuals. Often people are seen staring at the two, harsh extras that avoid interacting with them, turning them down at restaurants and, perhaps the most de-humanizing of all, simply ignoring their very being-in-the-world."Oasis"is about these two unfortunate minds living within a critical and impatient world that deems them unworthy and shameful. But magic is indeed possible, a hopeful oasis of understanding that exists amidst the critical and dessert of denial that surrounds them.

The most compelling feature of Lee's film is felt through a number of moments I can only describe as 'magic realism': fluid film-thinking that transports us from the depressing drama of the two's 'reality' into brief and surreal moments of pure joy. When the two first meet, for example, Gong-ju is sitting on the floor playing with her hand mirror. Trapped in her apartment for the most of the day, she sits reflecting the light coming in through the window around the room with her mirror: creating shaky pools of light that a cat might want to chase. Lee first shows us, not the actual reflections, but a white dove flying around the room instead, an imagining that can only exist in Gong-ju's trapped mind. It's beautiful film-thinking as Lee opens us up to compelling and empathetic visions of her happiness. There are numerous moments like this throughout the film, heartfelt and dreamy utterances that pushes past Gong-ju's harsh reality to show us a new and magical perspective, a hopeful alternate reality that is as free and innocent as a white dove made from sunlight.

"Oasis"is not an easy film to watch, and those familiar with Lee's work will know that this masterly maker of films is a wizard of poetic tragedy. Prepare to have you views challenged and, perhaps more so, come into this event with the willingness to leave with new eyes. There is magic here, real spells that will test and frustrate, but this cinematic elixir is worth the self-shaming aftertaste to get to the crystallised cure Lee has put on offer here.

"Oasis"(n.): A pleasant or peaceful area or period in the midst of a difficult place or situation.

"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm

- C.J. Wheeler ([email protected]@KoreaOnTheCouch)

 

Available on DVD from YESASIA

"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm"Oasis": Sunlight Doves in the Eye of a Storm

Source from :Hancinema

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