Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Lee Beom-seon. Scen.: Lee Jong-gi, Lee I-ryeong. F.: Kim Hak-seong. M.: Kim Hee-su. Scgf.: Baek Nam-jun, Lee Su-jin. Mus.: Kim Seong-tae. Int.: Kim Jin-kyu (Cheol-ho), Choi Moo-ryung (Yeong-ho), Seo Ae-ja (Myeong-suk), Kim Hye-jeong (Miri), Noh Jae-sin (la madre di Cheol-ho), Moon Jung-suk (la moglie di Cheol-ho). Prod.: Daehan Films Corp.. DCP 2K. D.: 112’. Bn.
Obaltan is Yu Hyun-mok’s most exemplary work and a key work of Korean realist cinema. The film captures the collective anxiety of post-war Korea through clerk Cheol-ho and his family – his mentally ill mother, his sex-worker sister and his bank-robber brother. Cheol-ho is a tortured soul and often ends up wandering around the streets of Seoul late at night. The film has long been considered a cursed masterpiece. A commercial failure upon its initial release, it was soon banned by the military government, finally receiving its due recognition when presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1963. Yet with the loss of the original film negative, the only remaining print was the English subtitled copy of the film screened at SFIFF. All of these factors helped the film to gain its legendary status in Korea as a classic awaiting rediscovery. The true value of this film, however, lies in its candid dissection of the devastating decade that followed the Korean War, re-appropriating filmic techniques developed in the West to show how the most atrocious event in Korea’s modern history ravaged society both economically and psychologically. Obaltan is not simply an anti-war film, rather it extends to the wider context of human existence in all its chaotic glory. The film shows how damaging human relationships reflect the socio-political system that inflicts suffering on a larger scale. Cheol-ho and his family are trapped in the prison of a powerful, unyielding social structure. We witness Cheol-ho singing the popular ballad Sa-ui Chanmi (Praise of Death) to himself and this epitomises the feeling of self-hatred and hopelessness that has been central to Korean society since the Japanese occupation instituted a culture of domination and exploitation.