Kim Soo-Yong (director)
01 November 2019 (released)
07 November 2019
It is incredible to think that this is the first time that The Seashore Village (made in 1965) has been seen in this country. Fittingly its premier is at the London Korean Film Festival and part of the celebration of 100 years of Korean cinema.
The Seashore Village is an enchanting story of a remote coastal community that is home to mainly widows who have lost their fishermen husbands and sons to the sea. What men there are either elderly or really not up to much, and certainly don’t have the strength of character that the women have developed as a result of their losses and the general mantra that life goes on.
Director Kim Soo-Yong fixes on a few characters and through them we get to see the relationship between the women of the village. Hae-soon (Ko Eun-ah) is made a widow after just ten days of marriage. Living with her mother in law (Hwang Jung-seun) and brother. it’s a struggle to get back to any sense of normality as she connects with the other widows with housework and diving for sea urchins. Into her life wanders loafer Sang-soo (Shin Young-kyun) who clumsily tries to court her, though today would be seen as attempted rape. She rejects his advances but there’s social pressure on her to remarry and eventually she accepts his advances.
There’s the character of a young widow, from the same storm, left with a baby and, despite the best intentions of the villagers, cannot be consoled. It’s a small part as she drifts in and out of the main story slowly descending tragically into utter despair. But it crystallises the references and places questions on the place of almost intolerant tradition and religion in the village and possibly wider society.
When you take into mind its age and Korea at the time it’s also a surprisingly sexual film as the women playfully chatter with each other laying resting their heads on laps and thighs. It’s a wonderful scene on the beach, warmly filmed and framed with the women looking completely natural and calm, just enjoying their company. There’s a more explicit scene between two old widows that leads to some amusing banter from the others.
It’s magnificently filmed by Jo-Myeong-jeon and directed by Soo-yong through long shots of the waves either battering or lapping the coast, contrasting with the more intimate moments of the film as Soo and Haesoon start to develop an understanding.