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South Korea 2005

Drama, Romance

Hur Jin-ho

Bae Yong-jun
Son Ye-jin
Lim Sang-hyo
Ryu Seung-su
Chun Kook-huan

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April Snow

Story: In-su (Bae Yong-jun) is resonsible for the lighting and light special effects at concerts. One day, however, he is informed that his wife has been involved in a car accident. Without thinking he just leaves everything as it is and hurries to the hospital. There he is told that his wife is severely wounded and is in a coma. The police is currently investigating who has been the one behind the wheel and was responsible for the accident, because apart from In-su's wife there was also a man in the same car. In-su meets the wife of the second victim that also lies in a coma. Seo-young (Son Ye-jin), as well as In-su, are wondering what the two were doing in the same car. When they find a condom and a video among the personal things of their spouses, things soon are more clear: the two had an affair.
In-su and Seo-young run across each other frequently from that day on, as they have a room in the same hotel and are visiting their spouses in the hospital every day. Eventually, the two start a conversation and thereafter often go out to eat something together. Out of a whim the two talk about that they should take revenge on their partners by having an affair with each other, too. And actually a romantic relationship starts to evolve between the two...

Review: The plot of "April Snow" certainly has to remind Asian movie-fans of Wong Kar-Wai's "In the Mood for Love". But apart from the not really inventive storyline director Hur Jin-ho unfortunately also borrows a lot from what we have already seen in his other two works, the masterpiece "Christmas in August" and "One Fine Spring Day". The obvious parallel between the titles "April Snow" and "Christmas in August" is only a marginal similarity concerning what's there to come. Love again derives from pain and loneliness and the way the two main characters get into a relationship is a slow and steady one. Which is also the biggest problem in Hur's third film, as the pacing oftentimes drags a lot and the relationship doesn't unfold as fluently as in Hur's former works. The most frustrating thing is, however, that we have already seen all of the themes that are dealt with here in his former works, and Hur even quotes himself from his other movies.

What the story is lacking that is made up for with Hur's very well done directing. Extended closeups of the two main protagonists are to be found everywhere throughout the movie, but it's mainly the scenes on the country road and the landscape that passes by, which manage to underline the melancholy and poetry of the pictures, that make "April Snow" somehow work out better than it should. Concerning the pacing and the story itself the movie proves to be almost tiresome or boring, but whereas we actually might falls asleep during other works, Hur somehow pulls it off to keep us awake and interested with his subtle magic he implements in his pictures. Furthermore, he just seems to know exactly how he has to depict the unfolding of the relationship of the two main characters, for the viewer to remain interesting and engaging. You also shouldn't miss to mention, that he always knows how to put his charismatic actors in the perfect light.

Therefore, "April Snow" proves itself to be more of art-house-cinema than anything else, at least if you judge by the compositions of the pictures. This is one of the film's true strengths, as the plot just reminds us of the numerous tearjerker dramas we get to see from Korea nowadays. Hur, luckily, put more emphasis on the way the relationship evolves between the two victims of the unfaithful husband and wife and not on what the story might have offered, bcause that really wouldn't have been much.
It's especially the small scenes, that are full of magic and that eventually manage to win over the audience. For example there is the mental pressure on the two and Seo-youngs break-down on the country road, after the two paid a visit to the relatives of the other victim, that the two companions now lying in a coma have run over. The two express their condolences, but understandable they aren't really welcome at the funeral.

Acting-wise the film plays on a high niveau, but that's just also the reason why it is pretty apparent that the two actors could have gotten out more of their roles at times. Heart-throb and TV-Idol Bae Yong-joon who is especially popular in Japan after the big success of TV-drama-series "Winter Sonata", gives a finely performed and also unobtrusive portrayal, as well as Son Ye-jin ("A Moment to Remember", "The Classic") does, even though her character seems a bit shallow at the beginning. Which is not really a surprise as she isn't allowed to speak a single word until very far into the movie, and so she can only introduce her character through her sad and indifferent facial expression. But luckily this changes, eventually.
The chemistry between Bae and Son is just right and has its climax in two surprising bed scenes. Surprising, because Son Ye-jin reveals more of her body than what one might have expected (no, luckily we don't get to see anything explicit as this would have really ruined the movie in a way). But maybe it's just hard for an actor/actress to say "no" when such a highly acclaimed director as Hur asks you to participate in a bed scene. There surely has to be a reason for a scene like this to be in the script, and there actually is. One of the bed scenes shows in a grandiosely believable way, the excitement, insecureness and anticipation, that lies in this relationship.

The tranquil and at times dramatic scenes are accompanied by a very pleasent piano soundtrack, and thus Hur manages with his pictures to almost create the same meditative atmosphere as he did in his "A Fine Spring Day". Of course, there is nothing like your typical cheesiness to be found here and even if it might be evident in some rare moments, then it just doesn't feel like it. Moreover, you have to give the director credit for the fact, that despite everything we aren't really sure how this film might end. We somehow can't really think of director Hur to come up with your standard tearjerker ending and fortunately he doesn't disappoint us. He sees us off into a cosy-warm ending, which might come a little bit too sudden, but still succeeds in achieving its aim - which is to be moving and touching.

"April Snow" in a sense is a disappointing film, as Hur doesn't present anything new. So it's no wonder, that the movie didn't do that well at the box office. Director Hur may deliver his worst movie, here, but this doesn't imply that his work is actually bad. Hur has his own style, his personal handwriting, a way he composes his pictures, that just manages to hit the right notes. If you are willing to bear with a slow pacing, then you'll find a welcome change to your typical tearjerker drama here.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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