Having an already successful career as an actress, with parts in blockbusters like “Illang“, “Money” and “The King”, Lee Ga-kyung has now decided to take the seat of the director with this particular short.
Little Eun-ju loves ballet but her family issues do not allow her to pursue her dream. In one of the family gatherings, her parents and a number of other relatives begin fighting once more about her dead grandfather’s gravesite, in a “feud” that seems to have been going on for a long time. Eun-ju is fed up with the situation, and decides to take matter into her own hands: she takes her two baby cousins on a trip to retrieve her grandfather’s ashes and spread them in a place with good Feng Shui, following the advice of a psychic. Her trip and particularly her return are full of tension.
Lee Ga-kyung directs a short that focuses on the blights of tradition, particularly within families. Lee highlights the fact that the “obsession” of the previous generation with following tradition has created many problems, but most of all, that the solution will come from the new one, and particularly the youths who are willing to take risks. At the same time, and through the relationship of Eun-ju with her cousins, she makes a comment about the importance of family, also noting that the grownups should pay more attention to their children. Lastly, the importance of following one’s dreams, even against all odds, is also highlighted.
Lee manages to present all these comments eloquently, despite the just 17 minutes of the short’s duration, while keeping the film entertaining, particularly through the focus on Eun-ju.
Four scenes stand out in the film, both for their significance and their execution. The family fight, the visit to the psychic, the breaking of the glass in the funeral house, in an act of defiance against traditional “rules” (at least metaphorically) and the one that concludes the film, making Lee’s point quite evident while also highlighting her directorial abilities.
Ryu Myung-hwan’s cinematography implements an approach that focuses on realism, although he does not omit presenting images of beauty, particularly the ones in the woods. Lee Ga-kyung and Guem Tae-kyung’s editing induces the narrative with a leisure pace that suits the film’s aesthetics quite nicely. Lastly, the music is definitely memorable, particularly the use of the titular song by the Animals that concludes the short.
The child actors steal the show, with Lee making use of her own experience in order to guide them quite adequately, with particularly the girl in the protagonist role stealing the show with the variety of emotions she manages to present.
“House of the Rising Sun” is a more than hopeful debut by a voice that seems to have a lot to say and knows how to say them.