A discussion on the representation of the students’ situation in the south-korean education system. And a bit of magic too.
Yeogo Goedam? (pronounced yogo gedam in english)
What is this weird thing? It’s the title of a south-korean movie, and of a 5-movie series. It is unlikely you have seen any of these movies in a theater ; the USA have a completely unfair agreement on cinema with South Korea, and Hollywood much prefers to buy the rights of Korean movies to later remake (destroy) them for the America market, convinced that the American public is too dumb to appreciate foreign films (a self-fulfilling prophecy if you ask me). However, you can find these 5 movies as english-subtitled DVDs on the internet (eBay is your friend).
Although Yeogo Goedam is a 5-movie series, each story functions on its own, has been directed by a different director, and doesn’t use previous characters. You can thus watch them out of order, and you don’t have to see them all to understand the plot. However all five movies have specific common points. They all take place in south-korean all-female high schools or schools; they all are horror movies; they all feature ghosts and supernatural events.
I will post an article per movie, focusing on the magical aspect and the inspiration found in these movies. Let’s start with the first one of the series,
여고괴담 (Yeogo Goedam) : Whispering CorridorsReleased in 1998, it made quite some noise in South Korea. As the story was taking place in an all-female high school, censorship made a lot of efforts to prevent the release of this movie, because the director was giving a very unflattering image of the south-korean education system at the end of the 1990’s.
Another aspect of Whispering Corridors is that it started the wave of horror movies in South Korea, much like Ring (directed by Hideo Nakata) did in Japan at the same time. Where there is a horror movie, there are ghosts. And where there are ghosts, there are magical effects.
UbiquityEun-young, a former student, comes back to her high school after 9 years, this time as a teacher. In this extract from the beginning of the movie (17th minute), she remembers the moment when a classmate offered her something:
The magician asks a woman to lend him a ring to which she associates a specific and good memory. She places her ring in a case that is closed and put on the table. The spectator is asked to put her hand flat, palm downward, above the magician’s hand (hand flat, palm upward); she is then invited to remember her memory and to tell it out loud to share it with the people around them. At the end, when she lifts her hand, her ring is found to be on the palm of the magician. The ring and the memory are linked, and to tell the memory conjures the ring into existence. The magician explains that, of course, it is impossible, because the ring has been previously isolated in the case. The ring in his hand disappears, and it is found in the case. The ring is given back to the spectator who is thanked for having shared her memory with everyone. Note that it is not presented as a traveling effect; it is a ubiquity effect. The real ring is always in the case; the conjured-by-memory ring appears for a moment on the magician’s hand.
This is not the only possible effect. All you need to do is to find something illustrating the idea that the memory and the object are linked, and that to remember the memory makes the object appear in an alternative reality.
Ji-oh, the movie’s main character, presents an interesting variation on the western Ouija board. The Kokkuri is a japanese game and a form of divination; actually, although the movie and its characters are korean, Ji-oh mixes the original japanese spell (Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, Orite kudasai; Spirits, Spirits, please come down to our world) and the korean name of kokkuri, Bunshinsaba. As a side note, the actress playing the part of Ji-oh, Kim Gyu-ri, was also in a korean movie entitled Bunshinsaba. This asian form of Ouija is interesting because it requires fewer, as well as more common, accessories. In the scene, two people, a pencil and a white page are all that is needed. This method (two hands jointed on a pencil) reminds me of automatic writing, and could be integrated in an effect to make a revelation.
Like the other movies in the series, the emphasis is not on horror, gore or terror. Rather than this, it is a diffuse anguish, and it describes how memories can affect reality. There is a surprise at the very end; I’ll let you discover it on your own if you choose to watch this movie.
(thanks to Tomoko and Olivier Pelletant who helped me understanding the japanese part of the movie about kokkuri)