Today’s movie is the Korean film A Melody to Remember. I had the joy of watching this film with my best friend from college, Song Park, who came all the way from DC to California just to see me. =) A movie junkie herself, we both decided to watch this film because it was the only one in theaters that we were both interested in and that neither of us had watched.
Song also graciously agreed to help me with this blog post by offering her thoughts on the movie, so today’s post will be a bit different in that it will be a transcript of our discussion. But first, let’s get some information about the film.
A Melody to Remember is a South Korean film set during the Korean war. A lieutenant with much physical and emotional baggage, Han Sang Yeol (Siwan), is assigned to a new military base where he becomes the manager of an orphanage for war orphans. Determined not to let these orphans suffer further from the tragedies of war, Han Sang Yeol decides to form a children’s choir and to use music as a way for children to find hope and escape from their harsh realities.
Discussion (DL = Deborah Liao (me), SP = Song Park)
Question: What are your general thoughts on A Melody to Remember?
SP: It wasn’t terrible, but I felt many parts of the movie were forced and unnatural. I actually rolled my eyes a lot during the film.
DL: Oh really? I thought the film was pretty good. I was more like the two grandmas behind us – my eyes kept tearing up.
Question: Song, why did the movie feel forced? Could you elaborate?
SP: I usually cry very easily during films, but the type of film I really dislike are the ones that are trying too hard to make you cry. In A Melody to Remember, it felt as if the writer and director’s goals weren’t to share a meaningful story based on true events, but to alter and portray those true events in a way that will just set you up to cry. Even just the original Korean title of the film (오빠 생각 = Thinking about my brother) makes me cringe.
Furthermore, in trying to make the movie heartwarming, the dialogue often became over-the-top cheesy and dramatic, and I couldn’t help but think – no one actually talks like this! So it’s pretty hard for me to understand what Deborah liked about the movie…
Question: Deborah, explain yourself.
DL: So I can’t speak for the dialogue being cheesy because I don’t speak Korean, but the English subtitles read fine. Regarding the movie’s story, I do agree there were moments where it felt I was set up to cry, but I don’t think that detracted from the story’s meaning. Instead, I viewed those emotionally charged moments as powerful vehicles for conveying the film’s message of finding hope in immense tragedy. As for what I liked about the film, I thought it was inspiring how even in the midst of a devastating war with incredible loss, children – those whom we view as the weakest and most vulnerable – are those who are the most courageous and resilient, and it is they who become a source of strength and encouragement to others, including to the adults. The fact that this film was also based on a true story makes it even more inspiring, because that means there were actually children like those portrayed in the film. And also the kids were adorable – another reason why I loved this film.
Question: Aside from the story, how did you feel about the aesthetics of the film?
SP: I mentioned earlier that I rolled my eyes a lot during the film, and this often happened at particular frames. While the shots were certainly aesthetically pleasing, I found many of them to be quite cliche and predictable, adding to the “forced and unnatural” feeling I received from the film instead of making it emotional.
DL: I didn’t like the opening sequence, which was a battle scene. It was gruesome and really just too long. Overall, there weren’t many extremely violent or graphic scenes in the film, which is a plus, because I don’t do well with violent content.
I also really liked the juxtaposition of children’s voices and the images of war. It was interesting to hear such innocence while seeing such vivid images of terror. The stark contrast between purity and defilement powerfully conveyed the horrors of war and also served as a powerful reminder that the war caused these children to become orphans. It also touchingly showed how the children could still maintain their innocence and create something beautiful through music despite their tragic circumstances.
Question: Song, since you didn’t like the film, was there at least one thing that impressed you or that you liked?
SP: The acting was very good for the most part, with Siwan and Lee Hee Joon standing out in particular. Siwan has, no doubt, already proved himself as an actor with the drama Misaeng and the movie The Attorney, and this movie proves his abilities once again. Lee Hee Joon shows a new side of himself through this character, which he pulls off perfectly. Nonetheless, there’s a limit to how much good acting can cover for a bad script…
Question: Deborah, you liked the film. Was there anything you didn’t like, aside from the opening sequence?
DL: I suppose the acting. Siwan was good, but some of the children actors weren’t that great. Granted, because they are children, they may not be polished in their acting skills, but there were some scenes, especially in the more emotionally charged moments, where it was just too obvious that the kids were trying too hard to be sad and cry.
Question: Any last thoughts?
SP: There are definitely worse movies out there. But…there are also many much better movies out there too.
DL: I’m not crazy about the film, but it’s pretty good and worth a watch.
Song’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Deborah’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Title: A Melody to Remember
Director: Lee Han
Writer: Lee Woo Tak
Cast: Siwan, Go Ah Sung, Lee Hee Joon, Jung Joon Won, Lee Re
Run time: 2 hrs 4 min