One Fine Spring Day

2001 [KOREAN]

Drama / Romance

IMDb Rating 7.1 10 1418

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by amateuretymologist 10 / 10

A moving film that is visually subtle and communicative.

I watched this movie with no expectations and was brought on a roller coaster ride of emotions. All the highs and lows of love are here and presented through visually emotional camera work as well low-key yet powerful acting. When I'd finished watching, there was a gut-wrenching feeling in me that lingered for days. There is little dialogue in this film. Yet it speaks volumes because of the performances of Lee Young-Ae and Yu Ji-Tae. Each look, each gesture, each simple touch said more than a thousand words. If you want a genuine portrayal of a love affair from its beginning to its end, then watch this.

Reviewed by mweston 7 / 10

3 stars

This isn't a film about plot, so I'll concentrate on describing the main characters. Sang-Woo is a single sound engineer living with his family. Eun-su is a radio show host who lives about 4 hours away, by herself in a small, somewhat messy apartment. They meet to record the sound of wind in a bamboo forest for her radio show, and a relationship develops between them. The film observes them over the course of the changing seasons in Korea, starting in the Spring both in terms of the calendar and their relationship.

The pace is deliberate, and the characters don't really change much, but the film is beautiful and, not surprisingly, lovely to listen to, and it's definitely worth seeing. I think that the male lead (Ji-tae Yu) is particularly good in his role. My understanding is that the film won the top prize at Korea's equivalent to the Academy Awards.

I saw this at the San Francisco International Film Festival on 4/21/2002, where an earlier showing was the U.S. premiere. The director was present to answer questions, through an interpreter, and one of his responses indicated that viewers who are more experienced in love tend to identify with the female lead, while those less experienced see themselves in the male character.

Reviewed by howard.schumann 9 / 10

A film of quiet power

Although Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all", anyone who has endured the breakup of an intense relationship would not necessarily agree. Certainly not Lee Sang-woo, the young sound engineer from Seoul, Korea in Hur Jin-ho's exquisite second feature One Fine Spring Day (literally Spring day goes). In the film of quiet power, two young people meet, fall in love, then gradually pull back and withdraw, but the film is not about their circumstances, but about the impermanence of life and how we must learn to ride the roller coaster. Like Hur's 1998 film Christmas in August, it is a realistic and intimate work, filled with a touching lyricism that never succumbs to manipulative devices.

Working to record sounds of nature for a radio station, Sang-woo and radio disc jockey Han Eun-su meet at a bus station in a most unusual way. Unable to wake her from a bench in the waiting room, he calls her on his cell phone even though she is sitting right next to him. As they work together, their relationship develops slowly. She has recently been divorced and he lives at home with his father, aunt, and grandmother. The joy of discovering a new relationship is conveyed against a background of nature – its mountains, forests, and streams and, as we listen to the two recording the sound of the wind against the bamboo and the wheat fields, we are struck by the mood of serenity created by the cinematography of Kim Hyeong-gyu and the original music of Jo Sung-woo, based on the French ballad, "Plaisir D'amour".

Impermanence is a constant theme in the film and the seasons represent various stages in the character's relationship. To underscore the fleeting nature of love, Sang-woo's grandmother denies that her deceased husband was ever unfaithful to her and, barely in touch with reality, goes to the train station everyday to wait for him. Though Eun-su lives in the provinces, she and Sang-woo begin to meet each other after work and spend some nights together. On the surface, they are an attractive couple - warm, sensitive, and very cute together. But Hur drops hints that each, in their own way is eager to pull away from what looks like it might become a lasting relationship. Though the reason for their growing coolness toward each other is not specifically defined, she may be reacting to the fallout from her last marriage or may be put off by his tendency to cling. In his first real relationship, he may be having thoughts that it is too soon to close off other possibilities in life.

Neither, however, communicates their fears and, like a flower that is not being nurtured, their relationship is allowed to wither. As she withdraws, he pursues her even more, giving her the upper hand and placing her in a controlling position and Sang-woo is run by his expectations and disappointment, drinking and hiding out when things start to turn sour. In "One Fine Spring Day", we learn that, as in the Buddhist tradition, life has the characteristics of instantaneity, impermanence, and decay and that the three realms are deceptive and illusory in nature. We share Sang-woo's discovery of the joy of love and also its confusion and pain. Literally, not too much happens in the film, and, on paper it sounds ordinary, but, like the poetry of Walt Whitman, if we look beneath the surface we can easily see the divine in the commonplace.

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