October 2, 2017

A Broad Bellflower: The Political Before the Personal

There's an icy cold heart at the center of the lukewarm love triangle in the sad, political romance A Broad Bellflower, one of the movies credited to Shin Sang-ok and his wife Choi Eun-hie, the director-and-actress couple who were kidnapped by the North Korean government and forced to make movies during their bizarre imprisonment. (Check out the stranger-than-fiction doc The Lovers & The Despot.) And it's not just that our heroine Song-rim (Oh Mi-ran) puts her hometown before her husband-not-to-be; it's also that her selfish sister Song-hwa — played by Song Yeon Ock and Kim Hye-son — makes the doomed lover sign a note that will damn him to permanent exile. What's his crime? He has big city dreams. And no one should put personal desires before those of the community. Absolutely no one.

But what's particularly harsh about what transpires in A Broad Bellflower is that when the now old man sends his devoted grownup son to his hometown in hopes of forgiveness, nearly everyone is dead-set against them. Let bygones be bygones? Hell, no! The sister hates to even hear the name of that man; the sister's daughter reacts as if the son had committed this crime against humanity himself. Any sweet feelings that may have come from biking around the neighborhood and sharing a roasted chestnut are squashed the moment the truth is revealed.

As to the spinster who never got married but found her joy in dragging telephone poles through the snow, carrying slate across steep cliffs, and flirting over architectural drawings, her life was cut short by a mudslide that buried her while she was in the midst of rescuing some sheep. Once she'd spit the dirt out of her mouth, she was able to convey one dying wish: "Forgive him!" But you can tell by the way that everyone's acting that while they may let father and son return, they're still going to treat the two like crap.

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