At last, I managed to write it.
Lovers Vanished is a small independent movie directed by Jo Chang Ho, who gave us quiet drama about the seemingly doomed relationship and brought to the attention the problem of people with aids. Movie deals with this tentative topic in a very well-balanced way, mainly thanks to the intelligent script by the director Cho, and brilliant performance from the both leads.
At the beginning we see Mi Ah who learns the magic trick from her lover before they perform show called The Worst Magic Show. After some time she catches him making love with his male partner. Mi Ah is not a passive woman, so she buys a gun and accidentally shots the man. Sang Byun takes the blame on himself and goes to the police station.
In jail he met with Su In who was imprisoned for life, being accused of murdering his wife. He knows who did it, that is why he attempted to break free to catch him. Su In learned that infected with aids prisoners are freed, so he befriended with Sang Byun. He also knew Sang Byun can do magic tricks and asked him to teach him one. Sang Byun taught him how to disappear.
When Sang Byun is being hospitalized, Su In infected him with his blood, and moments later Sang Byun tears off all his hopes. He explained that Su In was wrong thinking prisoners with aids are given the freedom. They are just transferred from prison to hospital. Broken, but determined even more to break away, Su In made his way.
Outside he met with his wife’s lover, now a priest, who confessed what happened, but on their way he jumped from the cliff committing suicide. Su In then went to the small café Sang Byun asked him to go to. He met with Mi Ah and decided to stay there as a chef. Slowly more people are involved in the story, there is one man who stalked Mi Ah and sold her the gun few years back on that fatal night. He knows that it was her who shot the man. He wants to force her to submit. Meanwhile police is on Su In’s trail. The blind tenant of the hotel both Su In and Mi Ah lives, and her granddaughter voluntary help Su In to hide, even though girl learned who he is. After working in the cafe for a year, Su In disappears to escape the pursuit and around the same time Mi Ah is raped by her stalker. Mi Ah stops to take her medications. 11 months later Su In makes his way back and this time it is well visible how disastrous is his illness. He’s losing consciousness often, he has hemorrhages, but tries to live as bright as he can.
Unfortunately they both don’t have much time.
The first thing that comes to mind reading this synopsis is: “Oh no, another Korean melodrama!”. And this will be the biggest mistake anyone can make before watching it. This is a sad story, that’s true, but it’s not sad because based on illness cliches and typical tearjerker moves in a movie. The air in it is ominous, but the quiet performance of both leads keep it far away from any melodrama. As I wrote earlier, I think Lovers Vanished is a good title because of the sound connotation with vanish. It sounds like sand (cafe is located on the beach), and it sounds like dust and ash in the wind. Wind blows throughout the entire movie, the only bright sky is visible in the scenes in prison, when ball disappears in the sun. It looks like wind takes those two people away and vanquish all trail after them.
Sadly, no one will remember them. This is also the reason I like the word “vanish”, because it comes with the “obliteration” sense. They will disappear in the wind, in the sand, in the ashes and no one will notice their vanishing.
Plus, if anyone did not see, in the previous post about the movie I posted few banners and three official posters. Did you notice the smoke coming from the last word? It looks like the word itself started to vanish. This was the sense of “vanish”, to disappear in the air without a trace. Like this smoke. It’s in their fate to share the same, but one small thing could change everything. Si In said that everything would be OK, if their love could last. Whose love? His and his wife? His wife and her lover? I’m opting for the second. He put up with the fact he was cheated on, but he couldn’t put up with her death, because he was accused of murder. I guess, the characters and actions were so constructed that comes to mind one Latin proverb: Tertium non datur. There is no third choice. The tragedy of this movie doesn’t come from accumulating of all bad things that can happen to a person, but from those bad choices, vulnerability, wrong words said in wrong place and time.
There is one blood-freezing scene in this movie. When Mi Ah begs Mr. Jo not to report Su In. He is the man who raped her. She despises him the most yet she says he’s in fact a good person, all this to save another man. I had many ideas why she did it, she knew she was dying, she knew Su In was dying, but she tried to save his life for another day. There is this scene when Su In wanted to commit suicide by stepping right in front one car. The driver turned and landed on the roof, but the face of Su In said it all. Like if he was even forbidden to do it.
Movie is shot in a very beautiful way, with framing I haven’t seen for a while. There are scenes shot in “from hand” technique, not that irritating as in other “artistic” movies. Because yes, Jo made an artistic movie. The movie that doesn’t make a sermon on morality, a movie that doesn’t rely solely on action or accumulation of unlucky events. Everything that happens in Lovers Vanished is the consequence of previous actions. There is not a single useless word, Su In talks very little, he is timid and closed, Mi Ah closed herself after the shooting. Those two met few years too late.
In the whole movie there is not a single trait of spring or luscious summer. We have winter, we have just a hint of spring, but not in the full bloom. There is an overwhelming Fall. I like the way the grass was filmed – withered but strong grass rattling through the movie. Music – the sounds of nature: rain, grass, ocean.
I may be not objective, but I find Lovers Vanished one of the best movies of the latest years. It is heavy, it is difficult, but it is in the same time moving and beautiful. All actors performed with utmost care, giving the characters true life, they weren’t just paper figures in the script. It takes a great artist to show the emotions with the slightest gaze or twitch.
And sorry, but it takes Kim Namgil-nim to portray this kind of character. I thought about it few months ago when I saw the teaser, about how it would be easy to overact this kind of man or make him a wimp. He’s neither. Instead Su In is like a mist. We may get lost in it, but when sun raises, it disappears.