▲ A scene from “The Crucible” (2011). Photo courtesy CJ Entertainment
There have been more and more media reports recently about sexual crimes and abuses occurring in education settings in Korea. The new Korean film “The Crucible” (Dogani) has brought this topical subject onto the big screen.
Originally a novel by Gong Ji Young, Director Hwang Dong Hyuk has created a dishearteningly honest adaptation that serves as a wake-up call for Korean society.
Shot in more of a documentary style, the film lacks the dramatic elements we have come to expect from mainstream film-making. It is a very vivid story but does not have any sense of suspense through foreshadowing. The plot is clearly laid out beforehand.
The story unfolds when the young, naive art teacher Kang In Ho, played by Gong Yu, is hired to teach at a school for the deaf in the imaginary fog-filled city of Mujin. On entering the premises, Kang senses that there is something awry with the school and its students. Some appear to be depressed and self-protective, and are ignored by their teachers, presumably because the teachers believe that the deaf ought to be in a perpetual state of distress.
As the story progresses, Kang’s doubts keep building. Soon enough, he witnesses students being physically and sexually abused. Shockingly, the principal and administrator of the school — who are also twin brothers and performed beautifully by actor Jang Gwang — are at the center of the criminal activities.
▲ Photo courtesy CJ Entertainment
Kang and social rights activist Seo Yoo Jin, played by Jung Yoo Mi, struggle to help the victims, who cannot speak up for themselves against the chaos of the school and backing of corrupt police.
Depicting in a single work the disabled, sex crime, and corruption, the film delves into a difficult and disturbing subject. “The Crucible” turns out to be extremely dull, heavy, and disappointing. The director does not hesitate in capturing the brutality of rape. There are victims, criminals, the corrupt, and others just idly standing by. In one scene, Kang In Ho’s mother, who represents most people in Korean society, tells him he should pretend he too is deaf to the situation and ignore it for his own sake.
Overall, the actors and actresses did their jobs. The young actors whose roles were as frightened victims were so convincing that at points during the film some in the movie-going audience started sobbing and swearing. Without great performances, this film would not have been able to effectively bring this issue to the surface of social consciousness.
Be that as it may, if you expect for even the tiniest of plot twists, you will not find them in this film. Though the novel and the movie may be based in some form on actual events, this film lacks the expected amount of dramatic weight.
It’s possible that for those living in Korea, this film might help them to better grasp current issues and social phenomena. There’s no doubt that this movie accomplished its goal, as stated on the poster, to “[decide] to let the world know.” But whether this film is worth watching will most definitely depend on the viewer.
“The Crucible” (2011) Rated R Running time: 125 minutes Writer and director: Hwang Dong Hyuk Editor: Ham Sung Won Director of photography: Kim Ji Yong
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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