Seen in Jeonju

Fade Into You (2004)

16th October 2009

Originally posted January 28, 2008— fade into youFade Into You is a great movie for a rainy day when you might be feeling a little bit introspective.  It is NOT a movie to watch if you are in the mood for breathtaking action or exciting visuals.  During this film’s 70-minute running time, I don’t think more than ten short lines of dialog were spoken-and none that I remember in the first segment. However, the realistic actions of the characters living their solitary lives draws you in and allows you to identify with what they are feeling–or not feeling. The story is divided into three segments which briefly look into the lives of three different individuals with remarkable similarities.  The first stars Lee Nan (who had directed the short Swing Diaries in 1996) as ‘the man who travelled to space’. The second features Kim Han as a new worker who takes a short business trip to Wonju and the final third of the film watches a young woman played by Ok Ji-yeong who travels to Jeju Island.

The fact that they all taking trips is not what ties the three together. What marks them as similar is their complete lack of contact with other people.  The man travelling to space works in some sort of custodial position in a large facility.  He does not appear to have many duties and spends his time wandering the halls, looking out the windows at nothing in particular, eating in the company cafeteria or sleeping on his cot presumably on his job site. There is at least one other person there-and probably many more given the size of the facility–but we never see their faces and the man never speaks a word to them.

The second man has many more opportunities to have contact with people. He stops to help an old woman in a bizarre and amusing sequence. He works in an office that has an often-absent supervisor and at least one other employee.  All three of them drive to Wonju for a meeting and must spend the night there. However, the ride in the car is silent and the young man literally fades in and out as if he is not really there. Once in Wonju, the three eat a silent meal and sleep in different rooms. All opportunities to communicate and reach out to people are ignored.

The woman vacationing on Jeju Island is travelling alone and despite obviously being on holiday does nothing. She spends the entire first day lounging in her hotel and even orders room service instead of going out for dinner. Eventually, she phones for a rental car (which may be the only time where one of the characters initiates a conversation) and drives to the mountains where we watch her wander around looking at..nothing. With all the beautiful things a Jeju, the only thing that catches her attention-and that she examines for several minutes is a small stone.

At several points in the film, the viewer may wonder ‘What is such-and-such character looking at? Why are they doing nothing?” and then the director turns the tables on us. At one point in the film the director turns off the camera.  I sat and watched the suddenly dark screen waiting for something to happen. And I sat…and I sat… and I realized that I was doing exactly what the characters in the film were doing. I was just sitting and looking at an empty screen–not moving, not speaking–just waiting. And in that instant where I realized what I was doing, I completely understood the characters and felt even more empathy for them than I already had.

Fade Into You is the first and only work to date for director Chae Ki.  Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more from him in the future

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