Thursday, May 03, 2007

[DVD] Il Mare (Siworae) (2000)

Any Letter From Hollywood?

One of the earlier Korean hits in Singapore was Il Mare, starring Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Jung-jae, and last year it became the excuse of a remake by Hollywood to reunite Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock on the big screen. If anything good comes out these remakes, it is the acknowledgement that Asian stories are finding some legs to travel. There was no hesitation to obtain my copy of this movie when I saw the DVD, given that almost all the versions of the movie here was the VCD one

Just so you know where I'm coming from, I haven't seen the original, and had seen the Hollywood remake first. But if you were to ask me to decide right now which version is superior, I would say without hesitation, the original Korean one triumphs over the remake, simply because, as a romance, it sure knew how to present it the way it's supposed to be. The way the movies were made, is akin to the lake house featured in both movies - the Hollywood one is very grand, with plenty of bells and whistles, but the Korean one is simpler though by no means less effective, in its minimalist look and feel, puts the focus of the story squarely on our lovebirds separated by time.

The first thing that strikes you is how quiet this movie can be. There is less dialogue, and it allows the images do the talking. As the cliche goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Containing plenty of beautiful, idyllic soft focus shots which contribute to the overall romanticized feel, Il Mare is slowly and intricately paced, and less complicated with its relationships, and its supporting cast is few and not given anything substantial to steal thunder and limelight.

This, compared to the very Hollywood style of development every minor subplot into a major one, and having to explain everything to the audience - this I thought was sledge-hammered through in the remake very early on into the film, which after watching how it was dealt in the original, you'll agree at which version is more superior. There were many instances of "homage" shots, like the red coat, the paw prints, and the shots of the mailbox, as well as adapting plot elements like the train incident, and liberties were taken to bring to life some of its supporting casts, which were only mentioned in passing in Il Mare. If not for the inflation of run time because of the lack of skill in making a beautiful picture, then I don't know what is.

Il Mare allows the audience room to piece together clues and events, without stifling, and this enables a greater appreciation, as well as time to be absorbed totally into the lives of our protagonists, 2 lonely hearts finding each other through a temporal time warp via a mailbox at Il Mare, the name of the Lake House. One's an architect, and the other's a voice artistes, and both connect heart to heart during the winter season, leaving the question of, if we can click, why not meet up and get together?

Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Jung-jae play off each other really well, even though they share limited screen-time together. Coupled with the way each had their individual scenes shot, framed, and presented, I'd say again, you can't help but to feel for these 2, and root for them to transcend hell and high waters to come together. Watch this movie to find out if they do!!

Certainly one of the better romantic tales out there, done totally right. Forget about The Lake House, make it Il Mare instead!


The Code 3 EDKO Video Ltd is a letterboxed version that should have included some worthy extras to make up for its poor visual transfer, which at best is video quality with a purple hue running throughout on the left side of the frame. There's only the Korean audio track in Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS, which might seem to be an overkill for a nuanced film like this. Subtitles are available in English and Chinese, and watching this with the English subtitles turned on, all I can say is it probably didn't undergo quality control, with many typographical and grammatical errors, coupled with truncation at times when too much is squeezed onto the screen. For those who have particular scenes in the favourites list, the scene selection is spread over 12 chapters.

The special features bundled have little or no subtitles at all.

There are 3 theatrical trailers included, but don't expect top notch quality. You should note that they contain spoilers from key scenes, so it's best not to watch them until after the movie. The first two Korean trailers are companions, each running 1min 30s, the first one shown from the POV of a very weepy Jun Ji-hyun's Kim Eun-ju, while the other from the POV and narration of Lee Jung-jae's Han Sung-hyun. The other full version of the trailer seemed more like a quick summary of the whole movie in 9 minutes and 25s, and suffers from incoherent editing (yes, even for a trailer), and looked quite piecemeal in presentation, besides being spoiler-laden. Making it worse is that all 3 trailers have bad audio.

I'm not sure why a 30 second TV spot in Cantonese was included, and it's most likely because this is a Made in HK DVD. The other seemingly useless extra included is the cast and crew filmography, containing only a one pager for both leads, and the director

For those who loved the theme song, there is a Music Video of the Korean song "Must Say Good Bye" which consists of clips from the movie, running at 4 mins 57s. A word of caution again, this video contains spoilers, so don't view it until after you've seen the movie. And if you haven't had enough of the song, the photo gallery has an English version of the song running 3 mins 45s, accompanying the slideshow, though it comes with no controls.

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