For the Love of the Actor Lee Seo Jin: Part 2. Yi San, Gye Baek, Hwangbo Yoon, Soha’s Sword
I could have let it gone at that, intending to watch Yi San at some “distant” future, say on a lazy weekend. However, while surfing for images of the main lead what I saw hit me hard … KABLAM!! … OTOKE? … how can any face be this, ummm … this, ammm … how does one describe this FACE? … I was arrested by the CONTRAST between the prince Yi San’s gravity to the Lee Seo Jin glow … his face GLOWS! His smile is contagious! I was simply flabbergasted.
Of course all say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what I say now is that it is not only his smile that makes him beautiful. Naturally I dug a bit more info, surfing on him, and so I have verified for myself that what my Korean classmate here told me could be true, that Lee Seo Jin ist ein netter Mann (a nice man). This Korean classmate of mine is a serious thirtyish guy whose wife is an expert on music and they have a very smart little boy—so for me that makes his comment trustworthy(!). However, may these statements of mine in this blog not be taken as intrusions into the private life of Mr. Lee Seo Jin the actor. When I saw him in 1N2D and in Grandpas Over Flowers it became apparent to me how this person values privacy very highly. However, his is a “public” face, and I being amongst the public reserve the privilege of being allowed to form opinions on this part of his person, which is the public’s perception of the picture he projects, and which is dependent on many factors both known and unknown (does this sound legalistic or what?).
I ended up gobbling up Yi San, first from Episode 28 then upwards. Next year is too far away. Haha. I had to leapfrog across episodes in my impatience for the results of issues in the plot. I had to see immediately how this prince fared, how he tackled his obstacles, how he came out of them. At times when patience allows I would backtrack and hence weave together the depth of the drama. I came to love and respect the fully matured Geum, played by Mr. Lee Soon-Jae. … and he’s in Grandpas Over Flowers!
I find it wonderful how South Korea’s film industry values and respects the senior actors. Another favorite persona is the actor Mr. Maeng Sang-Hun, who is Geum’s Teacher (= Seonsaengnim actually, or Sonsengnim, but to my ear sounds like Susunim) in Dong Yi, who’s also Jang Geum’s Teacher in Dae Jang Geum, and Yisan’s bodyguard.
What happened to Inspector Hong broke my heart, though. He did not have the strength to reign in his passion for perfection and his addiction to “control”. Like Luke Skywalker’s father he wavered towards the dark side of the force and got singed causing Yi San and Dae Soo, who both loved him, intense suffering. Yi San has successfully presented King Jeongjo as a great king, one who puts the common people in top priority. It is also touching to see the affection between him and his father, and his grandfather.
Gye Baek, on the other hand, from the few episodes I had glimpsed at, frustrated me. I didn’t want this general to turn up like another General Lee Sung Gye whose hands were constantly tied – how frustrating to be pro-goodness yet damped down by rotten circumstances.
It is Gye Baek’s love for the character Eun Go that will sustain me for my next rerun of the series, completely watched this time. I need to brace myself against Jumong’s mom turning to the dark side, and Ye Soya being singed just as Inspector Hong was.
The richness of the set and costumes will provide a high dose of entertainment for me. I’ll take my time and wait for when I’ll miss an eye-treat as lavish as what A Frozen Flower offered. Which reminds me that I want to cut out the sword-dance scenes in there, so as to have a continuous set of movements. I’d like to compare it with the one in The Great Seer. Which again reminds me that I have found out that the historical kings in both these films are one and the same. It harmonizes with the showing of young men surrounding this king, supposedly serving as bodyguards, but who in the end are responsible for his death.
Right now as I am writing this post I am listening to Damo’s OST’s. I haven’t searched for the English translations of the lyrics and so I don’t understand what the songs say. But this one now, an instrumental called mae hwa bat (A Grove of Japanese Apricot Blossoms), is capable of stopping anyone in their thought-tracks. It undulates like a slip of silk in flowing water. (Ah, so the painting that Yi San’s King Yeongjo liked, the maehwa, is of Japanese apricot blossoms…) This next melody, called dan shim ga (A Song of Devotion) in guitar, will remind one of dreams quietly kept inside the heart.
For the love of Lee Seo Jin I will watch Damo again, in one sitting straight, so that I can have a complete grasp of the dynamics between Hwangbo Yoon, Chae Ohk, and Jang Sung Baek. I will risk breaking my heart again. I will risk spending my Scheiße expletives again. I will throw myself into the depths and the gray borders of human commitments and bonds and make sure that I come out breathing freely like the cloudless blue sky. This story is among the most memorable that I have come across, on screen or in print. This paragraph is also my tribute to the geniuses that cooked up the storyline and dialogues of this series. I am not Korean. I know that the subtitles are inadequate for a total comprehension of the dynamics. However, man is the same everywhere on earth. Perceptions can be built on other mediums of communication––I will rely on what I have learned of human nature so far, according to their context, in interpreting what I could see and hear from the characters on screen, in listening to the tones of their voices and in being alert to the subtleties of their facial expressions.
Already cemented in my mind is the complexity of Hwangbo Yoon’s character reflected in his eyes, the suppression of Chae Ohk’s will in her compressed lips, and the warm heart of Jang Sung Baek in his face. Cemented also is the fact that Chae Ohk was willing to give her life for both men even in the midst of crises and confusion on her part—which is much more intense than the case of Dongyi’s being torn between King Sukjong and Gaedura. Everything in Damo is as clean as can be, all throughout the confusion. I will have to look more closely for instances of betrayal-issues between these three. As of now I can’t see one. These 3 characters are life-loving — they have discovered how to live an authentic life and did not lose their integrity. Chae Ohk’s fierce faithfulness to Hwangbo Yoon is just as precious as her fascination of Jang Sung Baek. I now understand how it is possible to cry anew over a story one has already heard and cried over before. And yet it rejuvenates.
Damo is about love––on the breadth and depth and shades and shaded parts of it. I am happy that I do not have a bad taste in my mouth on the ending. I took it in perfect stride, emotion and denial coming one after the other, and I am confident of my eventual comprehension of the story––of what happened and could have happened. Who I’m really sad and sorry for are the comrades of both sides, the Left Police Bureau and the rebels. They surely will be grappling with their loss for a long time. They will wail their hearts out and would take a long time to console themselves.
Kaja. On to the next. Shadowless Sword. In the early part of the movie they did the same to Lee Seo Jin’s eyes the way they did it in the adult Gye Baek’s first apprearance. The make-up had the effect of making him an “un-made” man: a man whose integrity has yet to be built up.
Mysterious. Incidentally, the same comment is made of Mr. Lee Seo Jin by friends, though not in the sense of being un-made-yet or no-integrity. Just plain mysterious, on the fun side. These are from 1-Night-2-Days (1N2D), Episodes 387 to 389:
In Shadowless Sword the Lee Seo Jin is playful and truant without being careless and stupid. He grins a lot. He walks in easy struts. His speech is of a regular carefree guy’s, not as noble as Hwangbo Yoon’s. We see him at first in a lifestyle that involves buying and selling stolen goods, his base in a sleazy pleasure district. Little by little as the pace picks up his character is built up from being among society’s garbage into somebody who has reserves of inner strength.
The magnitude of this inner strength is slowly revealed as he and the equally mysterious Soha traverse the distance from his location of exile to the seat of the kingdom that awaits him, as their last hope for leadership.
He single-handedly defends himself against the frightening monk-warrior (who is, alas, my beloved Jumuchi, that awesome clan-leader from Khitan who is at a loss on how to handle Sujini and her sabunim). He is also able to decidedly vanquish the ruthless leader of the Killer Blades, who’s someone capable of stabbing one who loves him at the back just to get at the target.
The sword refers to the one that Soha carries. Soha has kept it so that no negative energies reside in it despite her use of it, as a warrior. She constantly placates the souls whose blood the sword has spilled along the way, by burning incense in prayer. Thus, no darkness resides in it, no shadows lurking within. This is a regular-length movie. Had it been an 80-episode drama I would be equally willing to sit up through it. It would be interesting to know more about this exiled prince’s life before he was banished, all the palace upheavals and how he became an excellent fighter at 15. His life in exile has rich potentials, too. He was constantly on the look-out against assassins and yet had the ability to financially prosper himself. He’s had connections and he’s built a reputation among them. Finally it would have been interesting to know how he applied all this acumen in reviving the Kingdom of Balhae that was on the brink of collapse. It’s a straightforward story, on the poignant side, and will make you take hope with you. It’s a much much less distressing watch than 14 Blades or Shinobi though I’d still wouldn’t let kids watch it.
As someone has said, good things can wait. I must put a hold on my Lee-Seo-Jin-high for the meantime and postpone his other movies/dramas to when my schedule allows it, maybe next year. Many times I would catch myself either grinning or laughing as I read articles and comments about him on the net, but then I believe that the bombard of good chemicals in my central nervous system helps my health. Haha. Thanks for reading! Ciao!
Many thanks to the sites that made these clips possible for me to access!