Bichunmoo (2000)

Bichunmoo

Release Date: 2000 July 1

International Release Title: Out Live
Genre: Drama, Romance, Action
Directed & Written by Kim Young-jun [Shadowless Sword, Last Present]

Principal Cast


Synopsis


Set in the past when Asia was under Mongolian rule, childhood sweethearts and star-crossed lovers Jinha and Sullie (Kim Hee Sun) are separated but vow to reunite. Raised by his Uncle, orphan Jinha (Shin Hyun Jun). trains to inherit the Bichun martial arts. After Sullie’s departure, Jinha arrives home to discover his uncle is under attack. Assassins have arrived seeking to steal the Bichun martial arts. Unfortunately, his uncle is gravely injured. Before his death, his uncle reveals that his parents were murdered by Sullie’s father, General Taruga, during the racial conflicts of the Mongolians, The Hans, and the Koryo (ancient Korean migrants). Meanwhile Sullie’s father, a Mongol general, arranges for her to marry a Mongol noble named Namgung Jun-kwang (Jeong Jin-yeong). However, when Jin-ha tries to stop Sullie’s impending nuptials, he is apparently murdered by Taruga’s archers. Believing Jin-ha to be dead, Sullie marries the Namgung Jun-kwang and has a son. Recovering from near-death, Jin-ha takes on the persona of bandit Jahalang, and begins an anti-Mongol crusade with the help of his army of warriors. Finally Jin-ha and Sullie are re-united, when Jin-ha’s bandit warriors infiltrate Sullie’s family manor. Their reunion is not a happy one for both their lives have changed, and they have new priorities. However, despite the initial bitterness, both love each other and they suffer through trial and tribulation to hold one another again, but it was never meant to last.

Romeo & Juliet

Although not identical, the story of Bichunmoo shares similarities with Romeo & Juliet. How?

  • Two ill-fated Lovers
  • Opposing Families
  • Love & Hate between Yu Jin-ha and Sullie
  • “Youth in this play is a separate nation,” wrote Frank Kermode about “Romeo and Juliet.” Jin-ha and Sullie’s youthful and passion conflicts with the values of their feuding families and nation.
  • Transience. While the events in Bichunmoo are not as swift as Romeo and Juliet, the movie still shows that Jin-ha and Sullie’s love gains its power from the movie’s “constant reminders that life, love and beauty are ultimately fleeting.”

Themes

There are many themes that appear in Bichunmoo. I have mentioned a few above to draw comparison but here’s a list of other themes that can be found in Bichunmoo:

  • Filial Piety
  • Loyalty
  • Revenge
  • Fate and Free Will
  • Foolishness and Folly
  • Repentance
  • Duty and Honor

Colors in Costuming

I would like to think that the choices in colors of garments had some symbolic reference in the film. Before Jin-ha and Sullie are separated, we see him in blue and her in peach/pink/coral. Blue is symbolic of immortality – perhaps the immortal naivete of youth, self cultivation, peace and peach/pink/coral is symbolic of desire, love, and trust. Before Jin-ha’s apparent death, we see Jin-ha and Sullie together dressed in white – foreshadowing of their fate?

When Jin-ha becomes Jahalang he dresses in a deep burgundy representing summoning or a rebirth. Red in Eastern culture is a color of prosperity. Perhaps, the prosperity is Jin-ha’s second chance to make peace and come together with Sullie. Meanwhile, we see Sullie wear greens and reds before eventually reverting to white, which is representative of death.

Boromir Would Have Been Proud

I think one of the moments that I found impressive was a scene that reminded me of Boromir’s repentance/redemption. After being poisoned and tortured for the Bichun martial arts secrets, Jin-ha is partially cured by the very person who poisoned him. However, in the course of traveling to rescue Sung, his son, and friends, he is met with a team of bandits sent to kill him. Namgung, the husband of Sullie, joins the fray and saves the ailing Jin-ha. Previously, Namgung dishonored himself by giving into his desires and foresaking his honor. He watched as Taruga’s men shot arrows into Jin-ha’s body. This time Namgung takes the arrows meant for Jin-ha. Namgung wears a coat with am emblem on back. The arrows pierce and blood runs from the eyes of the emblem. It’s an epic death scene.

Final Thoughts

There are some reviewers that have been exceptionally harsh on this film. The film’s plot is not difficult to follow. The acting by the principal cast is done with care and appropriate emotion. There were a few supporting actors that were a little ham-fisted, but I think overall the actors captured their characters well. The scenery is appropriate. The costuming does out do the scenery. In fact, the wardrobe department should be applauded. The action is fast enough to keep you involved in and interested. The movie does not get weighed down by the sentimentality of the love between Jin-ha and Sullie. Eventually they do make it back to each others arms, but it is bittersweet. It’s not a perfect film because I wish the director had not rushed through some of the development of the characters. I think a strength of the bond between Jin-ha and Sullie could have deserved more attention. Also, I would have liked to have seen more of the progression of character within Namgung. It also suffers from predictability.

It’s a decent first film to get acquainted with the Korean POV on fantasy swordplay. Also, Despite it’s imperfections, I recommend that you check out this movie because if you are Tsui Hark fan, you will get a kick out of the similarity and martial arts styles.

Final Grade: *** 1/2 out of 5 Stars

SPECIAL NOTE: This was my first Korean movie. It was a great introduction to Korean Cinema for me.

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