A second feature-length film by actress-turned-filmmaker Koo Hye-sun titled “The Peach Tree” is almost like a cinematic version of a children’s story, filled with imaginative and original exploration of the human condition.
The film tells the story of Sang-hyeon (Jo Seung-woo) and Dong-hyeon (Ryu Deok-hwan), who were born as conjoined twins with two heads sharing one body.
Dong-hyeon has the full control of their shared body, except his brother’s head which is attached to the back of his. The two can never look at each other directly, as their heads always face the opposite direction. Dong-hyeon looks “normal” as long as he wears his hoodie, which fully covers his brother’s face.
|A scene from actress-turned-director Koo Hye-sun’s second feature film “The Peach Tree.” (Joy n Contents Group)|
The two live nearly 30 years in a remote house with their father, who tells them not to go outside the property. However, things change when their father brings a bubbly, good-hearted young artist Seung-ah (Nam Sang-mi) to the house to help Dong-hyeon publish a children’s book ― which he always wanted to write.
Throughout the film, peaches appear frequently. Before the twins were born, their young parents enjoy a date near a peach tree. Near the same tree is where the young twins see their mother for the last time, who gradually loses her sanity and health after giving birth to them. The tree and its fruits witness the history of the twins, even before they are born; it sees the twin’s beginning, their loss, and their isolated dreams and experiences.
It’s the shape of the fruit that inspired director Koo to make this film.
“I thought the fruit looked very much like two heads facing the opposite direction,” she told reporters during a press meeting on Wednesday. “I also liked how they are fluffy. It somehow reminds me of children and their innocence.”
Sang-hyeon and Dong-hyeon are very different from each other from the very beginning. While Sang-hyeon is patient and giving, Dong-hyeon is curious and selfish. Dong-hyeon gradually builds a grudge against Sang-hyeon, blaming him for his unhappiness and isolated life. Sang-hyeon, who happily lets his brother cover his face with the hoodie whenever he wants to, does not recognize his own wants and needs until running into Seung-ah. And things get rough as Dong-hyeon, who wants to appear as a “normal writer” for his upcoming book, desperately tries hiding what he thinks as his ultimate flaw ― his own brother.
The movie does not offer a realistic glimpse into the lives of conjoined twins. Rather, the characters serve as a metaphor. Koo shows what happens when fulfilling one’s desire requires denying the existence of his loved ones, including his alter ego. Actor Jo Seung-woo showcases an engaging performance as the enduring and giving Sang-hyeon, who is denied by his own brother with whom he shares the same body.
The introverted character does not have many lines. Instead, viewers can guess what he is going through by listening to him reading children’s book out loud. In one of the moving scenes, he reads out an excerpt from the “Anne of Green Gables,” while his brother is asleep. In the excerpt, Anne is falsely accused of stealing Marilia’s brooch, and is told that she’ll be locked up in her room until she confesses.
“We all grow up by going through hardships and trauma,” said Koo. “That’s what I wanted to talk about with this movie.”
“The Peach Tree” opens in theaters on Oct. 31.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)