Beyond the Years Im Kwon-taek

Beyond the Years Im Kwon-taek

Beyond the Years is the one hundredth movie by Korean master Im Kwon-taek, who once again returns to themes of personal priorities caught in a web of cultural continuity. And while I can’t say it’s the greatest of Im’s efforts, it’s a solid endeavour that will reward the attentive viewer.

Following up a film he made in 1994, it deals with the trials of a man whose adoptive sister is also his lifelong love. Both participated in the Korean folk music called pansori, and much of the film contrasts the images of the form’s dedicated practitioners and the suffering they endure in order to learn the craft. But it’s also a tale of a crippling obsession: the hero sacrifices his life, and the life of the family he settles for, in the name of a simultaneously touching and self-defeating devotion to the woman (and, not unimportantly, perennial victim) with whom he’s obsessed.

To be sure, the film is a little more interesting in outline than in practice, with the dialogue blandly functional and the intrigue a touch melodramatic. But the complexity and pain of the saga shine through enough to keep you watching — though you’re never quite disturbed by the horror of the situation, the piling on of details, cross-purposes and frustrations have a cumulative impact that’s hard to deny. And the camera never falters, rendering the images with a quiet calm that frames the characters’ gruelling trials with disappointment rather than brutality.

If the film isn’t exactly a masterpiece it offers enough suggestive material to make it a solid effort and a film worth your time. (Kino2)