Dean O'Brien's Blog

Critical Review: Shadows in the Palace – Coventry East Asian Film Society

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This is the second time that I have attended a screening organised by the CEAFS and as usual a very warm welcome greeted me. This time I was being introduced to Korean horror and the film ‘Shadows in the Palace’.  This was a story about women who live as servants within the palace.  It is set amongst a group of palace women in Korea during the time of the Joseon Dynasty.  They devote their lives to the well being of the Royal Family.  The film is shrouded in mystery as one of the servants is found dead.  At first this appears to be suicide but then a deeper reason behind the death is revealed.  The film is full of secrecy, submission, celibacy, mystery and death.  A very well made produced film and well worth making the effort to see.  After a while, reading the subtitles becomes second nature so this does not pose the problem that I thought it would before I started viewing.

The guest speaker at todays screening was Dr.Colette Balmain.  She managed to give an excellent insight into the film industry in Korea.  Wether this be the communist north or the capitalist south, both sides seem to compete to be ‘more Korean’ than the other.  They both have a strong sense of nationalism.  In the past the film industry has often been at the mercy of political events but this is now changing.  What they are seeing is a new sense of cinema that is trying to break with the past.  This form of new wave cinema is socially informed.  This was helped with the election of a new government and democracy in South Korea.  This government was freely elected and has prepared a policy of globalisation.  North Korean films still tend to portray communist or revolutionary themes.

After hearing Colette speak it left me hungry for information.  Korea is a country that I was never really interested in before listening to her speak but if the opportunity arose I would like to travel there.  Opportunities to travel to China and India through the University have emerged and I have applied for both.  Travelling to other countries has made me a more tolerant person.  Tolerant and more understanding.

I was taught at school that ‘listening is half of learning’ and finally this is starting to sink in.  I genuinely look forward to the guest speakers which attend the University.  They take the time to give us an insight into their world and what interests them.  What we decide to do with the information that they leave us with then is our choice.  As a photographer information received from from a speaker such as Colette is still useful.  I might use what I have learnt in a different way to say a dance student or a musician but as long a something positive comes from this then her words are not wasted.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

March 8, 2010 at 1:50 am

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