Hanji (2011)

Director: Im Kwon Taek
Casts: Park Joong Hoon, Kang Soo Yeon, and Ye Ji Won
Genre: Drama, Comedy, and History
Running Time: 118 minutes

Pil Young (Park Joong Hoon) was placed in the hanji (traditional Korean paper) department. The project is to create awareness and bring out the importance of hanji. While doing that, he has to take care of his wife Hyo Kyung (Ye Ji Won) who collapsed of a cerebral infarction. Meanwhile, documentary filmmaker (Kang Soo Yeon) shoots a documentary about hanji. To make her documentary, Ji Won has to travel around in Korea. By chance, Ji Won meets Pil Young. At first, they don’t get along but soon realize that Pil Young plans to restore a copy of the annals of the Joseon Dynasty by using hanji which is created in the traditional way. So, Ji Won joins Pil Young. Along the way, Pil Yong is obsessed with this project but there are obstacles along the way. The bond between Pil Young and Ji Won starts to build up while Hyo Kyung starts to notice that Pil Young has change in a good way.

I find it really fascinating to show the true meaning of hanji. From the beginning till the end, hanji is shown in various ways: how was it made, what is it used for, and the history itself (such as hanji last for 1000 years). Like pansoori (in ‘Chunhyang’ and ‘Seopyeonje’), Director Im has taken the initiative to use visuals to open our eyes about hanji. Even with small financial budget and crew, he has asked the real people, scholars, and specialists to be involved in this film project. I must say that the people themselves acted just like the main casts perfectly. His hardwork and determination through research, communicating people, and filming has paid off to make this film. The ending was fascinating with the words in relation to scooping up the moonlight by the waterfall. Truly magnificent. I realize how important hanji is and hanji should be revived to let the whole world know about it.

However, even though I get the idea about hanji, there is a lack of focus on the bond between the main casts. I don’t find them quite interesting when they have conversations especially between Pil Young and Ji Won. I didn’t feel the sense of connection from them. Both Pil Young and Hyo Kyung try to open their heart and communicate but they should have done more for that. So, the missing element in this film is that there’s not much communicating and chemistry among the main casts.

In this film, you get an understanding about hanji which is probably the part of when you understand more about the Korean culture including arts. It makes me want to head over to Jeonju, Korea where there is a Korean paper culture festival which held every year. This will be the next one on my list on the things I want to do in Korea. I’m quite impressed with the people involved in this project because they really want to bring out the importance of hanji. Unfortunately, as I said before, there is a lack of chemistry among the main casts and they should have focus on that. I understand that hanji is important to be shown but there should be a balance between culture and the communicating among people. I believe that this will be the next one on your list ‘What to know about Korean culture?’.

Rating: 7/10

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