"I want to report the disappearance of myself..."
Looking dishevelled and rather confused, Jin-young (Kim Jung-tae) wanders into the local police station to report a missing person. When asked for the man's name, however, he is unable to answer and, while giving a description of the missing person's height, build and appearance, he keeps glancing at his own reflection in the window behind him.
Becoming quickly exasperated, the policeman demands to know Jin-young's relationship to the individual he's searching for, at which point Jin-young simply states that the man who has gone missing is himself...
Every now and then, a film comes along that, from the very outset, resolutely and effortlessly reminds you of some of the reasons you fell in love with Korean Cinema in the first place. Remember O Goddess is one such film.
While I've written and spoken quite a bit in the past about the combination of love, loss and laughter within specific Korean films to facilitate narrative commentary on social and/or historical issues, I truly wish that Remember O Goddess had been available at the time I was writing/preparing those talk papers and articles. For here is a film that could almost be considered as a template for such a discussion in its own right, seamlessly merging, as it does, each of these differing elements deftly within its nuanced and utterly engaging storyline to create a perfectly cohesive whole.
Remember O Goddess is, at the same time, extremely entertaining on a surface level, for anyone seeking only that, as well as being a far more involved and layered affair providing social observation, discussion and commentary for those who care to delve a little deeper:
When we are first introduced to Jin-young, as he reports himself missing at the local police station, it initially appears that his 'loss' is simply his memory and, as such, our hero's tale begins to unfold in a gently quirky and genuinely humorous manner. However, as we gradually get to know him, it becomes increasingly clear that his failure to remember his past, who he is and where he fits in is only a tiny part of his overall story arc and, in fact, he is ultimately as much a victim of modern city living as he is a casualty of whatever caused the disappearance of his memory.
Take any sprawling modern-day metropolis filled of millions of people leading endlessly busy lives and any individual is virtually guaranteed to face, to some extent at least, an almost enforced anonymity, as society's majority focus their attention solely on themselves and routinely see strangers as largely faceless. It's not that no-one cares, per se, but more that they simply don't have the time to care, and while this separation may suit some, others have little alternative but to watch themselves slowly vanish in the larger scheme of things.
Remember O Goddess uses this theme to underline its entire plotline, both in content and visuals in a perfectly understated manner (case in point: Jin-young standing on his apartment balcony feeling utterly lost as he stares across the city vista; and towering, almost luminous, buildings shining in the distance), making its point undeniably clear while, thankfully, never allowing it to get in the way of the deeply engaging narrative.
This is greatly helped by the regular peppering of subtle yet genuinely funny moments throughout, and within this Remember O Goddess also successfully references the misunderstandings and lack of empathy of those wrapped up in their own agendas - the perfect example of which being the hospital worker who phones Jin-young demanding $3,000 before an operation on his dying mother will be carried out.
Not only that, but by extending the aforementioned theme of city-enforced anonymity and loss of self further, director Yoon Jung Lee also deftly details the increasingly difficulty of finding connection (and/or love) in the hectic present-day world by the introduction of the beautiful female counter assistant at the local convenience store (played by newcomer Choi A-ra) into Jin-young's field of vision, and in one fell swoop, our trilogy of love, loss and laughter is complete.
Serious though the themes dissected within Remember O Goddess are, the film never feels overly heavy in any respect and I almost guarantee that as the end of this short film version of the story approaches, viewers will be left wanting more.
Cinematically, Remember O Goddess is accomplished and masterfully realised throughout, with great care being taken to accent the underlying themes visually (again, for those who choose to look) within outwardly fairly simple scenes - but not appearing forced in any way - and while the film's budget was miniscule, that fact is never noticeable in any respect.
The attention that director Yoon Jung Lee pays to even the tiniest of details is, frankly incredible (such as showing a small scene from The Terminator playing on a television in Jin-young's lounge as he sits and worries that he may be being followed) and results in repeated viewings yielding ever-fresh moments.
A nuanced musical score that traverses a line between dream-like and playful serves to compliment the visuals yet further and helps to ensure that, even thought the themes and dissection of social ills present are fairly serious, they never drag down what is, at its core, an intelligently written and incredibly entertaining story.
Director Yoon Jung Lee is currently running a campaign to secure funding for a feature-length version of Remember O Goddess, and links to ongoing details of her efforts (as well as how you can help by backing her film) are given at the end of this review.
Finally, the Hangul Celluloid interview with director Yoon Jung Lee can be found at: www.hangulcelluloid.com/yoonjungleeinterview.html
Every now and then, a film comes along that from the very outset resolutely, and effortlessly, reminds you of the reasons you fell in love with Korean Cinema in the first place. Remember O Goddess is one such film.
Director: Yoon Jung Lee
Writer: Yoon Jung Lee
Cast: Kim Jung-tae, Choi A-ra
Duration: 25mins (approx.)
Production Company: Youn Pictures
Further Information and Links:
Lee Yoon Jung's continuing efforts to secure funding/backing to complete her feature film 'Remember O Goddess' are taking place via the Kickstarter project - a funding platform for creative projects.
Full details of the project and how you can help her towards her goal can be found at:
The first 25 minutes of the film have already been completed as a short film and screened in both Korea and the US. You can watch it for free on the official website at: http://rememberogoddess.squarespace.com/movie