August 23, 2017

Wedding Through Camera Eyes: Unreal Celebrations

Most newlyweds like to take photos (and shoot video) while gaily frolicking on their exotic honeymoon. Look at us! We're having the time of our lives! And we've got the pictures to prove it! But what if the picture-taking component became the whole point of these trips? What if the photographs and DVDs became the purpose of the entire experience? Such is the case in Wedding Through Camera Eyes, a bizarre documentary about a trio of Korean weddings for which staged documentation becomes a ceremony in and of itself.

In the first segment, a fiance and fiancee are put into a variety of costumes and settings intended to evoke an idealized romance for their photo album and commemorative video. The photographer — who's actually pretty good — and the videographer — who's frankly not — direct the engaged couple to kiss, to smile, to tilt their head, to redirect their gazes, to laugh on cue. The groom-to-be describes the experience as if he were an actor in a movie. And he's right. This is a performance above all else. Congratulations are due!

The second segment revolves around an elaborate wedding incorporating period costumes and all-but-forgotten rituals, followed by a grand Western-style ceremony (with a lot of empty chairs). The bride claims that she's learning about different traditions — like the feeding of taffy to female in-laws — but her understanding feels superficial at best. I don't know that the groom learned anything at all. Frankly, this is probably the least interesting of the minisodes.

Where the movie kicks into weird overdrive is with the final section: Here are young couple are part of a newlywed party that tours a resort island where they travel by bus from photo op to photo op, happily posing (and drinking) along the way. Interviewed afterwards, they talk about this constructed reality as if it were truly a happier time when we already know it's really a facsimile of happiness. Chilling? In a way. It would be much creepier though if the cinematography were better throughout.

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