May 20, 2022

Traces: War Dance

The Japanese leadership's inability to fathom why a Korean wouldn't want to pretend to be Japanese during occupation could be viewed as dimwitted patriotism. Yet as one savvy soldier notes: Why would a Korean want to adopt a Japanese name when "Japan is using Koreans as human shields"? In Shin Sang-ok's Traces, the resistance to this arrogant oppressor gets personal, too, once Korean gisaeng (Mun Hie) discovers that the Japanese artist (Oh Yeong-il) painting her portait is the son of the soldier that killed her dad.

She's not wrong to think less of him. He's one of those guys who believes that love allows him to compromise the safety of everyone — and so he stalks an independence activist (Lee Dae-yeob) who owes him a favor which he keeps cashing in. When said activist gives him a lecture on the purpose of "the movement," you almost expect him to say, "Yes, that sounds like an important cause but can't you help me win back my lady?" Luckily, he doesn't have time to say that, because there's a raid...followed by a rainstorm and a drawing class and a prize for his oil painting (which is withdrawn since he won't change its name). The draft propels him towards the front line. Desertion won't bring him any closer. "36 years of pain won't go away that easily."

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