Film Review: The King and The Clown (2005)

Director: Lee Joon-ik
Casts: Gam Wu-seong, Jeong Jin-yeong, Kang Seong-yeon, Lee Jun Ki, Kwon Won-tae
Genre: Period Drama
Certi: 15 (Korea)
Run time: 119 minutes

This film is adapted from the 2000 Korean play titled Yi (“You”) about Yeonsangun of Joseon, a Joseon dynasty king that falls in love with a court clown who mocks him. Set in the 15th century, two street clowns, Jangsaeng (Gam Wu-seong) and Gonggil (Lee Jun Ki), flee to Seoul after escaping from slavery. They meet up with three other street entertainers and the group decides to perform skits which mock King Yeonsan (Jeong Jin-yeong) and his concubine, Jang Nok Su. After a few performances, they get arrested and sent to the palace. In order for them to survive from being beheaded , they have to make King Yeonsan laugh. However, the members of Royal Court felt that these performers shouldn’t be there in the first place. As the story goes on, they performed skits mocking the ‘truth’ about the members of Royal Court and King Yeonsan’s royal family members. At the same time, King Yeonsan becomes attracted to Gonggil’s feminine looks. Jangsaeng and Gonggil faces these obstacles while maintaining the true meaning of friendship and the importance of being a performer.

Throughout the film, I was amazed at how the conversation amongst these characters’ uses poetic language and had royalty element in it. At first, I was a bit confused with the relationship between Jangsaeng and Gonggil, they were either friends or brothers. There was, however, solved by the flow of the story line. As it goes on, I sort of understand the relationship between them. In terms of acting, Lee Jun Ki did a good job in portraying the character as a homosexual through actions and expressions.

Their skit performances kind of remind me of some concepts of Shakespeare’s plays. You know like the use of literal words that are used in plays. These performances gave me laughter which is a good medicine to make us happy. The actors and other casts really put in a lot effort on performing these acrobatic and theatre performances including Gam Wu-Seong who jumps on the rope many many times. It takes a lot of practice to put on great cultural performances like these.

I was able to see the likes of historical surroundings and traditional culture such as the ancient times of Korea. Although I am not very knowledgeable in history, I was amazed about the culture and feels, to me, like I am going back in time to King Yeonsan era. I admire both costumes and settings that were used in this historical film including the street performers’ costumes.

At the climax, there is quite a lot of shock and concerned over the suffering of the king’s past. It was quite scary seeing the look of King Yeonsan’s expressions. He is going mental and starts to kill people after knowing the truth on the corruption towards the royal court. However, Jeong Jin-yeong did really a good job in portraying King Yeonsan who became more unstable (physically and mentally) as the story went on.

One scene that made me hold my tears because it’s touching is almost towards the ending where a few scenes were shown with the two main characters. That one thing is friendship. They try to save each other from death and suffering. It is because of the use of expressions and words that hit my heart (in a good way). For example, at the end of the film, Jangsaeng and Gonggil converse with full of emotions and jump on the rope together while the army barged into the palace. It signified the end of their lives but, at the same time, their friendship still remained as they went to a happy place with other performers.

To sum up everything,

Pros
• Good storyline and showing the true meaning of friendship.
• Understanding the Korean culture and history like street clown and theatrical performances.
• Impressed with the casts on portraying the characters especially Lee Jun Ki and Jeong jin-yeong

Cons
• The overly exaggerated King Yeonsan’s expressions that made me feel uneasy.
• A little bit confused about the relationship between Jangsaeng and Gonggil.
• Felt a bit lost with the climax as there is not much logical flow.

Rating: 7/10

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