Starring: Kim Yoo Jung as Yeonsim, Suh Joon Young as Yunsu, and Im Ji Eun as Do-hwa
Rating: PG-13, subject matter
Running Time: 107 min
Twinkies: 4 stars
Synopsis: A female slave or woman of a private home who was paid for mourning at funerals is called a dirge singer. Dangeum is a dirge singer but her daughter Yeonsim doesn’t want to be one because she would have to mourn and lament for her life. Yeonsim runs away to become a gisaeng, a female entertainer, thinking that smiling for life is better. But it’s not easy as she’s a daughter of a dirge singer, a low-born. (also known as The Crying Woman)
Yunsu is born out of wedlock and is angry at his life as he cannot do anything because of his position. One day, Yunsu’s brother, who is a true noble, dies. And Yunsu becomes the chief mourner of the house. He has never been treated that way so he gets confused. Will they be able to change their unfortunate destiny?
Musings: This drama special was like a “teachable” moment. A lot of seasoned drama watchers probably already knew but it was definitely an experience for me to learn more closely about the purpose of “dirge singers” and their importance. Granted, the true plot was to show how two young people, with the same circumstances whereby people look down on them because of their birth and status in life chose differently how to live that life.
Yeonsim looked at what her mother did for a living as fake and insincere. She refused to cry at funeral processions that they would participate in. There was the scene where she was thinking about when her grandmother died and she remembered where her mother sang but didn’t cry. She felt like her mother was reserving her tears for her profession only.
Yeonsim’s naivety in thinking that the life of a gisaeng would be better simply because she could smile and laugh makes no sense to us, the viewer, but at the same time, you can understand why a young girl would be attracted to that type of life and want to shun the life her mother lead. Kim Yoo Jung did an excellent job as Yeonsim; a definite change to most of her other roles.
Yunsu hated his life completely. As the son of a noble father and gisaeng mother, you can imagine how difficult it was being between two stations; not accepted in one and not willing to accept the other yourself. Even though, he seems to have a good relationship with his half brother; his “step” mother and even his own father looked at him with distain.
So upon meeting Yeonsim, he couldn’t understand why she would ever want to become a gisaeng and made his feelings quite obvious. But as they talked and she got him to understand; not only why he should try to accept his life and “smile” but also understand her better, I found their conversations interesting, from both perspectives. Suh Joon Young, I liked from the drama, Sirius; so, this was a definite change from the last time I saw him on the screen. Plus, considering the age difference between the two leads was well handled as this is about a friendship/meeting, not a romance.
I also learned something; here I always thought professional mourners were there to supplement or help the family and the deceased pass on to the other world, I learned one fact that nobles of that time found it undignified to mourn their love ones. How sad but it also made the final scene that much more important as Yunsu, who was resentful of his brother decided to mourn his brother himself instead of forcing Yeonsim to do it at the end.
While some may find the ending to be kind of sad, I looked at it as a reflection of not only how the poor honored and buried their dead but also the affluent. Stark constrast when you give it some thought. I think this movie is definitely worth watching.
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