The Art of Never Giving Up
After the phenomenal success of his debut, the multiple-award winning Musanilgi (The Journals of Musan), Korean filmmaker PARK Jungbum (a former assistant director to LEE Chang-dong) has been toiling away for years on his follow-up, Alive, first presenting it as a short, then a work-in-progress. Alive has finally landed as a finished film, and it’s more than we could have hoped for: PARK has achieved what will likely be seen as one of the landmarks of Korean cinema this decade. With great physicality and intensity, PARK Jungbum plays the lead character, Jungchul, a manual laborer eking out a hardscrabble existence, working jobs in construction and at a soybean paste factor in Gangwon province, in the northeast of South Korea. Caring for his mentally disturbed sister, Su-yeon, an habitual runaway, and her young daughter, Ha-na – Jungchul spends his free time trying to repair their collapsed house – he’s a put-upon yet proud man, forced by the sheer need of financial survival to struggle and demean himself, by kowtow to those with a higher status.
In both of his films, PARK exhibits a great sensitivity to the marginalized characters in Korean life. In the very ambitious Alive, a more realized work than Musanilgi on every level, his remarkable accomplishment is fully depicting a realistic social fabric, with a rich tapestry of detail and characterization. With superb skill of direction and editing, PARK sustains a nearly suffocating atmosphere for the film’s three-hour running time, which passes by in a flash. Despite all of Jungchul’s exhausting efforts, around the corner of each minor success is a catastrophic failure for which he bears little responsibility. But he never gives up. That PARK manages to find even the slightest possibility of hope in this sorrowful story is a miracle in itself.
Tutti gli esseri viventi consumano costantemente qualcosa per restare vivi. Tutti devono prendere qualcosa dagli altri per esistere. Ma tra tutti gli esseri viventi, solo gli uomini conservano una coscienza e confidano nell’amore per dimostrare la loro umanità. Questo film è una storia sulla “lotta” per dimostrare di essere umani.