The movie Christmas in August is an award-winning film by HurJin-Ho, which revolutionized the concept of melodrama. It redefined the genre despite being simple and exploring concepts that were far from new in narrative storytelling. Nevertheless, it became a canon for South Korean cinema, emphasizing the kindness of human nature. It showed a humble person achieving happiness without wealth. This idea was especially relevant to the South Korean people struggling during a financial crisis with many losing hope.
We will write a custom Critical Writing on “Christmas in August” a Movie by Hur Jin-Ho specifically for you
301 certified writers online
The film is unique in its category as a melodrama as it manages to meet and defy many criteria for the genre simultaneously. Melodramas are associated with reality, which does not necessarily constitute a good narrative. “In the melodrama, exaggerated feelings and circumstances work to arouse empathy in the viewer, whereas, in most Korean art films, directors have filled their works with the mundane” (Paquet, 2000a, par. 2).
However, the heavy-handed emotional and dramatic elements in the genre create a sort of stereotype around the films and the expectations that the audiences have. Melodramas are purposefully directed to initiate an emotional reaction through contrived manipulation of the audience’s feelings. Ironically, despite the genre, there is no evident drama in the film. Even individual elements such as the protagonist’s diagnosis or the encounter with Da-rim are not inconceivable acts of fate but are shown to be grounded in the realities of life.
While Christmas in August is technically a melodramatic film and does not seem unconventional, it has a unique style. It relates closely to the Asian concept of melodramatic films. “Asian films and other artworks portray suffering as being integral to life, a necessary condition to individual enlightenment” (Paquet, 2000b, p.43). The emotional resonance is based on sincere human feelings that can be seen in the life of a rational human being.
The film’s spark is based on the dramatic irony around the protagonist’s diagnosis, which inherently defines his behavior despite other characters not being aware of the fact.HurJin-Ho in Christmas in August takes a much different and subtle approach to the plot.
The film finds its emotional substance in moments of beauty and lightheartedness that the character experiences. Complex emotion such as familial or romantic love is perceived by viewers without any traditional cinematic symbols of affection ever being shown. The inconceivably minor moments such as a gesture or a longing gaze turn out to be central to the theme (Jin-Ho, 1998). The protagonist attempts to adopt a principle of living your life to the fullest doing what you love and being with those dear to you.
The cliché of terminal illness is an overused plot device that becomes the central theme of many films. Such movies are inherently predictable to the audience due to the apparent outcome. Christmas in August uses terminal illness as a tool to begin the narrative, but the emotional focus of the film tries to keep that revelation in the background, only coming up in the most intimate moments. This gives the narrative a sincere emotional gravitas, which is critical in a deeply personal exploration of life.
Jin-Ho, H. (Director). (1998). Christmas in August. Web.
Paquet, D. (2000a). Genrebending in contemporary Korean cinema. Web.
Paquet, D. (2000b). Christmas in August and Korean melodrama. In F. Gateward (Ed.), Seoul searching: Culture and identity in contemporary Korean cinema (pp. 37-54). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.