ENTERTAINMENT

A modern-day Cassandra in rural Korea

By Claire Lee

Director Yeon Sang-ho presents another grim, powerful animated film

  • Published : Nov 7, 2013 - 19:19
  • Updated : Nov 19, 2013 - 20:59
About two years after the release of his successful 2011 feature debut “The King of Pigs,” animation film director Yeon Sang-ho is back with another grim and powerful portrait of human nature. 

A scene from Yeun Sang-ho’s latest animation movie “The Fake.” (NEW)
Titled “The Fake,” the animated film manages to be an engrossingly dark tale of truth and deception. It takes place in a rural Korean town on the verge of becoming submerged. Most of its residents ― undereducated and isolated ― have little to their name. Some are terminally ill, while others are desperate to get out.

What draws the residents’ attention is Cheol-woo (voiced by Oh Jung-se), a good-looking, 30-something Christian minister who apparently has the power to heal the sick. He works with Gyeong-seok (voiced by Kwon Hae-hyo), a manipulative church official who tells the villagers that only 144,000 people can go to heaven.

The duo asks the villagers for offerings which they claim will be used to build a church and a house in another city where they can all live together once the town is submerged. They also say the offerings are mandatory if one wants to “secure their spot” in heaven. The residents, who had been helpless in the town’s situation, start to believe the two men and their “God,” praying fanatically.

The only one who is skeptical about Gyeong-seok is Min-cheol (voiced by Yang Ik-june), an infamous gambler who constantly abuses his daughter and wife. His daughter, Yeong-seon (voiced by Park Hee-bon), is devastated when Min-cheol takes her tuition money, which is her life savings, to drink and gamble. He one day sees the photograph of Gyeong-seok at the police station: the respected man is in fact a wanted swindler.

However, no one, including the police officers, believes Min-cheol. Most people think he is crazy after years of heavy drinking. Meanwhile, Young-seon and her mother become devout church-goers. Yeong-seon, in particular, breaks down when the young, eloquent minister tells her: “You were born to be loved.” She had been suicidal since her tuition money was taken away, and finds “new meaning in life” in God and the religious activities. She becomes extremely upset when Min-cheol tells her the minister and Gyeong-seok are “all fake,” and she should not believe in what they say.

“They said I was born to be loved,”  the tormented young woman tells to her abusive, violent father. “If that isn't true, why was I even born in the first place?”

The movie is very much a modern-day tale of Cassandra from Greek mythology. The prophetess’ prophecies were all true, but she was cursed by Apollo so that no one would ever believe anything she said.

“The Fake” is not a movie that criticizes organized religion, but it is a study of what people choose to believe and why ― especially when they don’t have a lot of options in life. Truth, at least to the villagers in this movie, has almost no meaning.

The film is hugely complemented by prolific performances by its cast members, especially Kwon Hae-hyo and Yang Ik-june.

The movie won the best animated feature film award at this year’s Sitges Film Festival in Spain, and was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

A Next Entertainment World release, “The Fake” opens in theaters in Korea on Nov. 21.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)