Friday, November 12, 2010

Through Love To Humanity Part 3 - The Red Book

The Red Book played another role in this drama. Not a pivotal, but an important one. All I can say now is: Thank you. To all the creators of this drama who made me dream again, and to those who read my long blabberings on it. If I missed something, I will accept the constructive critique. However, I will not accept any critique just for fun of it.
Why I mentioned Red Book? Because this particular book went from the hands of Yunhee (who copied such books 3 times, to all the horror of Seonjun, hehe. She wasn't all that innocent.) to the hands of... Yunhee. It's a closure. Funny, witty closure.

And here come the things I would like to say about this drama, but they were too much to write just in the separated descriptions of the characters. As I said earlier, this drama is not only a fluff. For me, apart from Life Is Beautiful, this is the best drama of 2010. I enjoyed it from the first minute till the very last.
This is not just a love story. And it’s not only a story about history. Nevertheless, knowing even roughly the Korean history helps to understand many minor hints and points here. I gave the explanation on Noron and Soron faction with a small saying on Namin. As the story progressed and the hostility toward Seonjun disappeared from Jaeshin’s mind, the division was left only in the adult politicians’ world. And to answer few questions, I mentioned that the heraldic color of Noron was white, and some people asked: why? They are wearing red robes! If you pay close attention, you will get another picture. During the council of Norons there were also people in blue robes. The color of the robe wasn’t the heraldic color I was talking about. The robe color described of how high status the person was. In other words – what social class he was born into. Not a political faction. Plus, robe colors depicted sometimes the official position. In general, red and purple was reserved for the highest officials. Then was blue and green. So, when we have this clarification behind, let’s move further.

            First thing first, this drama raised few questions and concerns among the viewers, mainly stupid mothers. And even though, let’s be frank, this is not LIB, mothers were concerned about quite a lot of things. All of the characters drank. Some of them like Blinky or Jaeshin seemed to be heavy drinkers. Alcohol was basically in every episode, and every, every young character drank. Some of them slept naked after that, keke. I see no point in complaining. Oh no, not with that particular character. Those were young people around 20, or in their 20s. They were adult enough to get married because family wanted, but still children in such matters? I like to sip a drink or two, a wine… I mean a glass of wine, or two, so what? Second worry of mums: nudity. I laughed my ass of. What nudity? Then I reminded myself of Jaeshin’s abs. Yes, that was the nudity the article talked about. Ok, he was walking with a bare chest for some time, but give him some credit, he lost his buttons in battles as HBS. No, seriously, after his discovery, he started to behave more appropriate. Maybe that was his mistake. What kind of girl wouldn’t fall for… OK, I know one girl who wouldn’t, ufufufu… You think it’s all? No, there’s more. This time Seonjun’s fault. His feelings were at first treated as the pure homosexual ones. What’s more, he accepted them, he didn’t fight them, he didn’t… well, I don’t know, cut them somehow? Have no idea what those stupid mothers expected. They called his behavior as displaying homosexuality as worthy of admiring. I will not comment on this one, I gave my share on LIB scandal. Plus, of course the feelings of Choseon for Yunshik. How can you call that lesbian vibe, when Choseon thought Yunshik was a man? Damn, those people are stupid sometimes. What was more? Disobedience. Both that of Jaeshin and Seonjun. Please, bear in mind we are talking about the society in which the respect for one’s parents is still one of the main traits. And as much as I approve that, and this Confucian value is close for me, I can only laugh the voices against both characters off. They rebelled, who doesn’t? As much as Seonjun respected his father, he found himself in this particular point in his life, he couldn’t continue. Between him and his father a wall was raised, built by both men. None of them was innocent in this. Both of them didn’t want to step down, fighting for their own beliefs. Jaeshin hated his father almost until the end, but he understood his situation, forgave him and asked for forgiveness. I have my doubts regarding Seonjun’s father though. And the last thing, the hints of the rape on Choseon. This also raised few question whether a light, judging from the description, drama should deal with such a heavy topic. This drama dealt with heavy topics well. Oh well, the last minutes of the whole drama were also considered inappropriate.
            At first we met Yunhee who was about to be sold to the household of Minister of War. She avoided that by paying the debt, but instead of continuing her dangerous life, she started a new one, even more life-threatening one. In “men infested” Seongkyunkwan. There were different students, older ones and newcomers, polite and conceited. And Seonjun, who was for her like some kind of safe buoy, she knew whom to turn for help. Then she met Yongha and Jaeshin, who at first didn’t like her at all. Yongha was curious and Jaeshin had everything up his… umm… boots. Plus Insu who hated both of new students right away.

            This drama is about maturing. Few characters grew up together, with Yunhee as the trigger of the change. The longest road travelled Seonjun, who became a human. A human, such resented by his own father. And I have to add few doubts to their relationship. At first they looked as every father and son in yangban family. He was an obedient boy, who apparently had no will. But under that calm face of his there was a sleeping volcano that everyone missed. He was natural only with Yunshik around, so the roommate became indispensable after some time. His father started to notice the change, the slow at first but after some time a rapid change in his son’s behavior and principles. Suddenly he started to question his words, he started to express his own opinion, he threw away noble family books and their rules. Seonjun started to endanger the future of the family. And his becoming a human wasn’t what Minister wanted. He tried to force him into the marriage, but after a short period of being stoned, Seonjun went back to action and refused. This just enraged Minister. After that, their relationship just worsened. He visited his son in the prison showing him full of disdain face. He remained cold when his son begged him to save Yunhee. I’m not sure of the reasons he complied with his begging. Perhaps he gave up, seeing how strong-willed his son is, and that his future depends on this little Namin girl. What I find the most intriguing and open, is his request for Yunhee to spend her life with his son. I can’t figure out his motives for that. Maybe he realized that the girl is perfectly suited for Seonjun, who destroyed his old life for her? But I still maintain my opinion that he didn’t forgive his son. Seonjun became a professor in SKK, along with Yunhee, which I find a perfect ending for them, they did what they loved the most (except for each other), but this was the shattering of ambitious dreams of Minister. He wanted to see his son as a minister as well. Instead, a professor, with an intelligent woman as wife. What a failure!

            There is also another interesting comparison. Jaeshin and Seonjun wanted to change the society. The former wanted to fulfill his dead brother’s legacy, the latter wanted to do it for people like Yunhee. They took two opposite directions. Jaeshin acted as Hong Byeok Seo, throwing away red leaflets with pointing out the injustice. Seonjun wanted at first to become the official to change the law. And as much as I love heroes, I know they are useless without masses that come for the assistance. He couldn’t capture people to lead them in some insurrection, not sure if he ever thought of that. Not sure what exactly he thought when he started his crusade. I admire that, it takes some courage to jump on the roofs and shoot the arrows a meter before the person, and not getting caught, but still it’s futile. And no, Seonjun’s dream was also futile. He couldn’t do anything being alone. This is how factions work. He could be also banished from the capital for too “revolutionary” thoughts. He started his own revolution. He married a woman he loved beyond any border, a woman who had only her mind to offer as a dowry.
Both of those dreams that young men had were unrealistic, but they gave them the power to continue. But when they learned about their uselessness, they accepted the reality and started to change the ones in their closest surroundings. Jaeshin became a guard officer. It suits him more than any other job.
             Lee Seonjun and Ha Insu. Oh boy, Seonjun got in fight with everyone in SKK. The conflict between those two men lies somewhere else than the one with Jaeshin. Jaeshin was just hot tempered and he easily jumped to conclusion not being able to see a bit wider. Insu was a bit different. True, he was also extremely narrow, but in the same time more wicked. Jaeshin was a Soron, so the conflict was inevitable, especially when Seonjun changed the dorms for Yunshik. But Insu was also a Noron. There is this scene before Yunshik started to learn shooting properly, between those two Norons. It was the first time when Insu felt that he underestimated Seonjun. The latter didn't fear him, not winked with awe, just treated him as some annoying kid. He just crushed him by simple words that Insu opened his eyes on why he has to win the Contest now. And he will. But we got into the difference between those two a bit later, when one of Insu guys said why injured and left alone Seonjun tries so hard to win a war he has no chance of winning. Insu said nothing. This is the difference. Insu was able to start a war when he saw a chance of winning or a profit for him, Seonjun could start any war just because of his own principles. He believed in the harmony of Noron, Soron and Namin. Finally, Jaeshin found a bit of his mind and joined their team.
            This drama maintained to keep in touch with the reality in many ways. Characters, their relations and their reactions were kept on the same, pretty consistent level. The reactions were as they should be. The words, especially the words, weren’t just false, written for a dialog in the drama, without paying attention to their artificial sound. Here, the dialogs were well written. I liked almost every line here. Both Seonjun’s confessions were beautiful and totally out of cliché bag (nothing on “I will love you forever and ever”), Yunhee’s confession was pure, honest and desperate. And there is Yongha, whose every remark was just noteworthy. Few very wise lines. I liked too many lines to just write them here. I especially liked Yunhee’s remarks on the society, she knew it firsthand, and she experienced many things in her life. She could be bitter, but instead she was cheerful still.

            Dreams and change. Two leitmotifs for this drama. But even with those, it maintained to stay as close to reality as possible. Historical facts were not distorted. The dreams were often mentioned, in few ways. With hope, disdain, mockery, anger, belief. Yunshik said once with reproach that it’s all Seonjun’s fault she started to dream. All the characters dreamed and believed in a dream that King drew before their eyes. Some of these dreams came true, some didn’t. But to dream and strive for a better future is human. To try and lose is better than not to try and regret it later on. And if we want a miracle, we need to create it. Not waiting, not observing people and events, but participate. Only then we can say we lived our life to the fullest.
       This also leads to Geum Deung Ji Sa. The secret will of the late King Yeongjo regarding his son Prince Sado. Quick refreshing of our memory: Prince Sado was punished by his father and sentenced to death. They locked him in the wooden box and let him starve to death. The son of Prince Sado thought of it as a wrongful death, so he wanted to build a new city outside Hanyang (modern Seoul) with Hwaseong fortress that would be a monument of his filial piety to his murdered father. Moving the capital to Suwon where Hwaseong was supposed to be located would weaken the power of Norons because of one simple reason - their residences and the net of mutual relationships lied in Hanyang. It would be impossible to transfer the whole universe of ties, relationships and small pyramids of dependencies. If it was only the wish of a current King they could easily stop him by a simple veto, but they were threatened by the will of the late King Yeongjo. In this will, called GDJS, Yeongjo expressed regret over his son's death and gave the green light to the next King. This is why it was so feared by all Norons. So around 1781 they murdered the carriers of GDJS: Professor Kim and School President Mun. What they didn't know was the fact that among the belongings that were destroyed afterwards, there was no GDJS. The case was sleeping in the safest place possible. It wasn't Jongmyo where the name tablets of Kings were treasured, and this would be the second target of those who were after GDJS. It wasn't the temple where it rested for some time and was taken from by those two mentioned earlier men. Temple would be the first target. Instead it was placed in the third target - in SKK. But not in some respectable place, not in the Memory Hall, not in the Lecture Hall or Library. In the place that is so common that became not worthy of even taking under the consideration - under one o the gates, not even the main gate. Some may say: "oh yea, I would have guessed right away!" Oh, really? Well, knowing all the facts now, I could stop WWII, but it doesn't work like that. No one would. Not that I'm depreciating anyone's analytical skills, but I don't believe anyone would guessed.
My point in mentioning GDJS? It was the main pillar of King Jeongjo's existence. He yearned to find it, to use it and to create a new Joseon. But he didn't have any precise sketch of this new Joseon. This is why Yunhee shattered him. And this is why he silenced Norons by lying about GDJS not being preserved. It looked as if he sacrificed his dream. Not exactly. He just elaborated it. Before, his dream of this future Joseon was made out of the mist, we see it yet we can't grasp it. But we can be lost in it.
After learning the truth, he solidified his dreams, he made them more achievable. He made Hwaseong Fortress come to life. He didn't back off on this one. So it's hard to say that King gave up his dreams. He just saw that along his own misty dreams were growing other that needed a little help. Mist disappears in the sun, the other dreams needed the sun to bloom. That's all.
And one more point - why Norons didn't revolt? Why they were silenced and no one reaised the bloody veto? Few reasons.
1. Not moving to Suwon.
2. Lost of the main support (Left State Minister Lee)
3. Account Book. Why everyone forgot about the book Yunhee stole and Seonjun gave to the King? This was a big, big threat for Norons. King could expose their bribes and forgeries, and many not perfumed deals. And if anyone doesn't know what that means - go read some books.

In a nutshell:
Plot: In overall, very interesting storyline, although main points were used few times before. Girl as a boy, coming of age drama, friendship and politics. If we were to judge the drama based on those points only, I would be the first to cast a stone. But it’s always like this when describing something multi-layered. We are left with few words depicting one of those, and in the end some may say: damn, this looks mighty boring! It may. For some it probably is. For me this was somewhat refreshing. I like they did all parts. I know Geum Deung Ji Sa was added by the writer, because she thought that only one plotline couldn’t hold the entire drama, and she was damn right. The problem was at the end, when it looked like she developed story regardless of the limited number of episodes. How I wish they gave us 4 more episodes, or at least 2. This way the ending wouldn’t be so rushed. But probably actors would wind up under the I.V. So, as much as I loved the ending, I know there could be more, but since I’m a sensible viewer I accept this as it is, without much complaining, especially that drama didn’t disappoint me. The main concern should be actors, because they brought us those characters. We are just viewers.
The love story was fresh, innocent, believable.
The political intrigue was… well… intricate.
The friendship was true and based on the real bonding through troubles. Troubles for everyone, not only for one person, and the rest are just observers. Here everyone was immersed in others’ problems.
Reversal of patterns. In dramas usually the leading guy is more colorful, adorable, loud and troublemaker. Here we had a "reversed pattern", as I called it. The leading guy seemed boring. It was the second lead that got all the energy, or so it seemed. I would refrain from comparing further, because I have stated it few times, in a subjective way - for me it was Seonjun who was more active than any other character. He just didn't do so many reckless things. All this I found refreshing, like a breath of a fresh air^^.
The fact that the drama was based on book also helped. Those characters weren’t slapstick, funny but shallow ones, they were people who had a chance to live in a real life. We can’t be sure that there wasn’t a woman who, as Yunhee, defied the laws and studied, maybe only on her own. We can’t assume that a man such as Jaeshin didn’t act as a hero. But we are sure King Jeongjo lived and didn’t move the capital to Suwon, and we know that Professor Jeong was his close friend. We know a new Joseon didn’t come in a spectacular way.
Actors: Everyone did their job right, except for Jeon Taesu. His nuna is such a fine actress, I have no idea what happened. And since I haven’t seen him in anything, or don’t remember, I have no ground to compare if he was really bad in this role only or still is lacking. Maybe it’s just an accident. Actually, he wasn’t that entirely bad, but failed to deliver any subtlety. Still, I liked the way he changed from a mild, contemptuous smile to the famous, full of hatred one. If only he blinked more! I was concerned about his eyes. But then again, it might be his way of portraying Blinky. But everyone, from the page boy (who was really good as for such a small kid) to the King delivered a very strong performances. Also the newcomers.
Technical: I liked the way they used colors. Every color was intensive and well placed, either by contrast or complement. And the fact they somehow linked the colors to the characters, I hope it’s not only my imagination. By accident, my favorite azure shades were given to Seonjun. Jaeshin had maroon and its shades, Yunhee – green and Yongha… damn, Yongha was multi-colored, but I link violet to him. Or gold. Insu was shown in red. But Korean dramas/movies are known for using the whole palette of bright, intensive colors. I especially liked the emerald greenery contrasted with Seonjun and Yunshik training azure outfits. Simply beautiful beyond description.
Shooting and cadres were nice, although they could be even better. And I’m not gonna start on Yunshik’s shoes while they were on the island. It was a mistake in shooting, OK, as I said, it’s not as if this drama is flawless. It has flaws.
And I’m here to say one thing about the way of shooting it. Some people just take it too literally and can’t immerse in the drama completely. In the scene when Seonjun saw Jaeshin and Yunshik dangerously close, in a confined building, WE saw bloody hands of Jaeshin. Seonjun didn’t. They couldn’t shot it in a complete darkness, people, please use a bit of imagination, please. It was all for us, so we could see his blood, but for a person peeking up into the dark room, not every detail is well visible. This kind of complaints I find annoying.
Happy note: I liked how the characters appeared on the screen when someone cited the Classics. Yeah, I know, tot a particular reason to get head over hills with that, but I liked it. It was a well thought. Especially when Seonjun (I know, you are probably annoyed by my mentioning him so often, keke) gave a lecture on Confucian values in life during the council on homosexuality scandal. I liked how the characters depicting those values vanished as the ashes on the wind.
Characterisation: Oh, man... a period drama. It can't be bad. It wasn't. Clothes were chosen with care, and actors wore them with grace. If only Yu Ah-in used a bit of his own hair... He could grow it, no?
I love Korean period fashion to bits, so it was a heaven for me actually. This silk, gauze, linen, ribbons, small accessories, hats, belts, gat... ah! Too much perfection.
Music: Hmm, not a big fan of DBSK (still don’t remember what this stands for, yeah, I’m lazy) or JYJ here, but… The classical parts were truly beautiful, well suited and perfect for creating the mood. Also the rock music when something was about to happen. Ah, the archery contest and this rock music were so well paired, I almost had shivers. As for the rest… Ah hell, I ended up singing 찾았다 사랑 내가 찾던 사람 뜨겁게 안아주고싶어 (Chajatta nae sarang, naega chatteon saram, tteugeopge anajugoshipeoooooooooo)

All pictures: Official Website and my VLC shot.