Each and every one of us needs sometimes cathartic story. This is why Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet will never grow old. Now less and less people read it, saying: “Oh, it’s so boring! They behave not like us! It’s stupid!” The last sentence is somewhat true. Love makes us stupid. Especially this kind of love that comes like a storm, destroying everything on its path. Those stories are similar, no matter where they take place – Mexico, China, Greece, Korea or England. There are thousands of tragic stories – Tristan and Iseult died, Romeo and Juliet died, and this is what was called l’amour impossible. The tragedy in this drama is written all over the place, it’s hiding in shadows, it’s crouching in corners, it drops with morning dew.
Once in a while, we need to immerse ourselves in this kind of story, relating to people walking slowly (or not) their path to destruction.
This drama started similarly to most recent Miss Ripley (and to countless other works, be it book, play, movie etc.) – from the ending point. We saw the death of main protagonist and his father, and the last memory of a dying young man led us to events that took place a year before the tragedy.
But here’s the trick this drama plays when showing us the illusion of “1 year before” times. We expect some sugary cute interactions, lovey-dovey and peace. There is an incredible tension instead. The atmosphere is so tense, I can almost see the flickers of electricy jumping all over. There is greed, hatred and loyalty hanging on the last strand. There are lot of lives on the line, and around the half of the first episode, we already know that some of those lives will be sacrificed.
It’s a little bit weird and heartwrenching to see the love sprouting against all odds just to be crushed in the end. The last time I was agonizing so much, was Revenge of Gumiho, where Jung Kyu and Yun Yi’s love was shattered to pieces leaving him out of his mind.
|Kim Jong Seo|
The King is sick, fatally sick, and he’s dying slowly. His younger brother is insanely greedy for power, he wants to be the next King, and well, truth be told, he has every quality to be one. Except for one – he is not named as the successor. The future king is a teenage boy, who still has problems with thoughts about himself devoid of freedom, friendship and love. He’s scared, and he has any right to be.
This drama is about politics. The background of it is heavily inlaid with politics, and this I found so fascinating after all 4 episodes. We have two opponents – one is Prince Suyang and the other is Kim Jong Seo. Both characters are played by fabulous actors, Kim Young Chul and Lee Soon Jae respectively. They can play without words, with eyes only, and they convey all what makes the characters seem real.
The cast is superb, for the most parts, I still think Hong Soo Hyun is not fitting here, but she stopped to irritate me anyway. She’s selfish, cold, scheming and cruel. And the actress is better than Lee Dahae anyway, so I can overlook all that is left. I like the approach that Park Shihu took towards his character, and he got rid of this wall he had around himself in Iljimae (ye, I can officially say it – I hate Iljimae drama, mostly because the main role, ekhem), he was good there because he can pull off the most pitiful look like a beaten kitty, but somehow his character was off. Here, he blended into the story, he is natural in 15th century settings. He mastered even small gestures and grunting, that makes characters real. Good.
The Princess Se Ryung is feisty and irradiating. She takes the place of Princess Kyung Hye who wants to escape her lessons, and by this sheer work of fate, she meets Kim Seung Yoo, about whom she knows only one sentence – a man who is supposed to be her husband.
Oh cruel fate!
In the first episode, by the end of it, there is a scene when Se Ryung’s horse went wild and Seung Yoo started to catch it. I find last few minutes of this episode very heavy. I watched it already almost 10 times. it was as if the glimpse of their future. She is free-spirited and tried to do what she’s not supposed to be doing, he’s somehow drawn to her and wanted to reascue her without thinking. He jumped on her horse and tried to stop it. Finally, just before the cliff, he decided to fall with her from the animal’s back.
I think it would be easier for him to just grab her and place before him, than to risk your damn life jumping on wild horse. But this was, in my opinion, a premonition of what will happen – the same road to the bitter end. Second – the fall. I really liked the slo-mo of that scene. I don’t like slo-mo usually, and I will tell now why. I think it’s just a handy tool to extend the drama/episode “because we don’t have much plot to fill the time”. The worst case? 300 the movie (Madness? Madness?! THIS-IS-DRAMAAAAAA!!). As my sister said – “They had material filmed for 50 minutes, but they wanted to make 2-hour long movie”. Hence, slo-mo.
But here, it gripped me suddenly. Their fall from the horse, with him embracing her, was just a grim future flash. And I was suddenly involved in their story. This is why I used this still as the anchor picture.
And now, she stood before him, protecting him when he was accused.
But last, definitely not least, there is a new trend in kdramas. They are shot in movie technique, or half-movie. It’s not the new idea (Freeze was also a 5-hour long movie for me), but it’s becoming more and more popular.
This drama is beautiful beyond compare. Of course, sageuk drama have this quality, but here everything is made to just pause and stare on the screen. I can turn the blind eye for some nonsense, like hanbok hangers, but in overall, beauty in its sheer form. And I thought QSD, Dong Yi and SKKS had the most elaborated settings. This is something very unique for korean cinematography – the colors. The leaves are so green it almost makes you breath with fresh air, the water invites you to swim, and clothes are so vibrant it’s hard not to touch the screen, because the silks are so glossy. It would be a crime not to see this in HD.
All screenshots are from the first episode, because I’m lazy.
Verdict: hell, I’m going to buy more tissues!!