Seen in Jeonju

If <2000>

13th October 2012

If <2000>– Director: Han Deok-jeon, Starring: Lee Hye-yeong <as Ha-young> , Yoo Tae-woong <as Seon-woo> and Kim Ui-seong <as Dr. Park> . DVD Running Time: 92 minutes. Released in Theaters: June 24, 2000.

107490Dr. Lee Ha-young is a leading urologist and a modern woman with ideas that society deems radical. She strongly believes that men are near obsolete and sets out to prove by example that an independent woman can live a fulfilling and happy life without the need of a husband. However, she dreams each night of being a mother and clearly loves children. Wanting a baby of her own desperately, Ha-young is inspired by a trend reported in Japan where a growing number of women are opting to become single mothers through artificial insemination. Coincidently, reporter Shin Seon-woo has been tasked by his editor to turn in an article denouncing artificial insemination as a danger to society and he is ordered to get the opinion of Dr. Park, a respected obstetrician.  The good doctor flatly refuses to assist in writing the article, but recommends Dr. Lee instead for, as he states, “she has far more expertise in this area.” Shin does as instructed, although he makes it clear from the start that he does not respect the doctor and goes so far as to substantially alter the article she submits in order to get it to match his own ideas which are namely that career women avoid marriage and are therefore usable as sex objects for males. Part of his ideas may have been formed by his co-worker Mi-ra, journalist by day- improbably clad leather lover by night- whom Seon-woo has been sleeping with on and off for a while.

In retaliation for Shin having altered Ha-young article, Ha-young and Dr. Park pretend to perform a phoney vasectomy on the reporter in which they give him an injection of viagra instead of a pain-killer.  Rather than either suing or simply letting it go, Shin finds a moment where he thinks he can get revenge on Dr Lee by forcing her onto a roller coaster that she is clearly reluctant to ride when he runs into her by chance at the Daejeon Expo. This proves to be a bad idea due to her pregnancy.  Learning of her condition, Shin is initially scornful and considers Ha-young a hypocrite and worse until he realizes that their is no father. His feelings soften towards her but she now despises him. They seperate for a good six months until Ha-young is nearing the end of her pregnancy. She is beginning to feel that there is something missing in her life and the pair iron out their differences just in time for Ha-young to go into labor. During subsequent events..getting to the hospital, labor, and an emergency blood transfusion– shows Ha-young that she needs someone in her life she can rely on. Man, woman and child then settle into a picture-perfect life in the quiet of the countryside while Christmas snow swirls outside there windows and the happy, albiet disembodied, laughter of a baby is heard.

107486Wow. This morale of this film felt quite archaic to me– like a Korean film right out of the 1950’s. Next time I will review  A Female Boss <1959>, where a handsome, young, new employee teaches a magazine owner her place in society and I think we will find the theme of the two films, although forty years apart, are quite similar. The theme of If is that Woman needs a Man and Motherhood is the ultimate and perfect career for every woman. A woman without these, according to the movie, is empty and the film gives us numerous examples of Ha-young feeling incomplete without a husband by her side– not to mention her constantly pregnant best friend forces the issue just about everytime the pair meets. However, the movie does go a step further than many its 1950’s predecessors do.  It lets us know that the same applies to men.  After realizing his love for Ha-young, and breaking up with his insatiable girlfriend, Shin Seon-woo is at a complete lost. Without being able to express his love and fulfill his destiny as Ha-young’s husband, Shin is a mess and spends most of his nights drinking despondently until he is finally able to confront Ha-young and work things out.  The whole ‘babies make for a perfect life’ motif is evident in other imagery as well such as the halo-like making the doctor seem like a saint performing a miracle during the birth of Ha-young’s son <pictured right> or the smiling, computer graphic  fetus imitating its mother’s actions in utero while Ha-young is swimming in a pool at the hospital.. and there are many, many more.

But while the film may differ slightly from the older movies by stating man needs a woman as much as woman needs a man, it is not so fair minded in how it views sexual freedom Despite all the talk, jokes and images of sex in the film, this screenplay is very conservative. When Shin Seon-woo first learns that Ha-young is pregnant, his normally good looking features turn into a frightful sneer as he grumbles that ‘they are all the same.’  Even though he is allowed to frequently meet women, apparently, in his mind, Ha-young is not. Although she is ‘redeemed’ in his eyes when he learns that no man was involved..except from afar.. in the making of her baby, one has to wonder how he justifies his double-standards. Of course, his girlfriend/co-worker is shown not to be the marrying kind not only from her actions and her attire, but she is seen playing pool with a foreigner. There are other movies earlier than this that I can think of where association with a foreigner led to assumptions about character and sexual activity– for example, in The One Love from 1980, the lead couple break up because of a photo of the woman’s mother standing with a foreigner turns up.  Although this does not always apply today, in 2000 it did–especially in a film like this that seemed to be resisting trends and appeared determined to espouse ‘ideals’ of earlier decades.

There are quite a few graphic and entirely unnecessary aspects in this film such as extreme close ups of an actual circumcision and another of a real child birth. These go along with the unneeded sexual imagery like the animated flowers and sperm scene at the beginning of the movie.  Despite these and the fact that I disagreed with this film on so many levels, It is watchable if you are not expecting much more than a traditional K-drama which totes the line that marriage and family are the be-all and end-all in life.  That is not to say that  I recommend you run out and buy the DVD <as I did>. Save your money for any number of better films.

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