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Original Title:
Dalkomhan insaeng

South Korea 2005

Jang Yeong-gyu

A Bittersweet Life - OST

Review: "A Bittersweet Life" is, as you might have expected from the title, a bittersweet movie, with a incredibly polished look and a grandiose style. But it's not only the composition of the pictures that make this emotional revenge thriller the outstanding and enthralling work it is. The soundtrack also plays a big part in making this movie great cinema experience, as the diverse pieces, yet always tragic in tone, really add to the film. Concerning the style there is a lot of different stuff to be discovered here, from tranquil piano pieces to waltz-like tunes and more action-loaden tracks that are standing out with their great beat and spanish guitar sounds. The OST feels like a whole, and is yet enchanting because of its diverse selection in style. Moreover, the soundtrack gets better and better with every time you listen to it, and never loses any of its initial coolness, especially not if you have still the pictures of the movie in mind. An impressive OST, that concerning its unique style is second to none.

The CD starts with an excerpt from the dialogue of the famous scene towards the end when the main hero talks about the buddhist monk, who one day wakes up with tears in his eyes and is asked by his master what his dream was about. There are two other short dialogues to be found on the CD (well, actually these are monologues), which will help you to easily recall the film, if you understand Korean, that is.
"My Sad Night" actually isn't as sad as you might have expected it to be because of its title, but instead its samba-like rhythm, a spanish guitar and friendly piano tunes really manage to go to your heart. However, this track might be quite brisk, yet you still won't miss to recognize the more saddening parts of the piece, also.
"Irreversible Time", on the other hand, is depressing through and through. With its soft, steady waltz rhythm and the quiet piano, as well as some strings and a cello that are finding its way into the track later on, of which latter of the instruments gives the piece a more dark and somber character, this song is surely one of the saddest of the CD, but also one of the most beautiful. Which is actually no big surprise as it depicts one of the movie's main motifs, that gets repeated with a string quartet in track 18, and in which the song gets a totally different tone color.

Japanese classic composer Yuhki Kuramoto has been perpetuated on the CD with his work "Romance". A very tranquil and bittersweet track, which has been a very good choice for the OST, as it also fits very well into the rest of the CD. A tragic song, that is accompanied by a piano and which motif comes through the speakers beautifully played by strings and later on a cello. Goosebumps are guaranteed.
One of the coolest and thus best titles of the soundtrack is "Red Lounge". With a very atmospheric rise of tension, which also sounds very etharial, this song eventually starts off with some nice guitar play, that again reminds us of a spanish guitar piece, yet is excellently transposed into this very modern piece. The pacing always remains slow, yet is also paying full attention to raising the tension into ad infinitum, aided by some drums, until it is finally resolved by some soft guitar play, eventually fading out with some piano tunes. This is my personal favorite track, especially because of its magnificent, soft guitar sounds. I'm always taken by the rhythm of such spanish influenced pieces, and still this track also manages to be a great song in its own right, without having to rely on the style of spanish guitar pieces.

"Long Journey" has a slightly samba-like style and is carried by strings and a trombone, while the interesting beat in the background bestows some more energy upon this actually quite sorrowful song. "Red Ice-rink" is nice, but with its rather monotonous rhythm can't reach the level of quality of the other tracks. Even though the melody is still quite appealing, meaning that you really can't call this track bad in any way.
When you look at "A Bittersweet Life II" it is evident that this is supposed to be the movie's main motif, but for this it proves to be too uninventive. The beat is nice again, and the melody actually underlines the bittersweet style of the movie, yet this track, as well as the following, which is nearly similar to this one as you might have already guessed from the title, only seems like a light version of the sung version "A Bittersweet Life III", which is by far better. In latter, the song's strengths just become more apparent and the female singer just gives the melody more emotional impact. Nonetheless, "A Bittersweet Life II" manages to create a nice rise of tension in its tunes towards the end.

"Escape" is very similar to the splendid "Red Lounge". As it were the case in that track, we also get a constant rise in tension here, and the great guitar play enchants the listener. However, this time the song breaks free, as it was already hinted at in "Escape", and a great beat hits in. The title becomes more adrenalinloaden and still remains within the framework of a very spanish-like guitar piece. After this, "Fearness" grants us some room to breathe with a wonderful waltz piece, that is introduced by a piano, and which tragic motif is eventually carried by wind instruments and strings. A fantastically sad song.
"Dark Room" is a track that mainly aims at creating an atmosphere of uncertainty and mild edginess. With its monotonous rhythm and a piano, which carries the track's motif, it succeeds creating that very atmosphere, but in the end it is just too shallow compared to the brilliance of the other tracks. "Follow" has an easy going upbeat character and with its drums and modest use of e-guitars reminds us of a sad 80s ballad, luckily without letting the intrusive style of such songs become recognizable. "Follow" remains rather melancholic in tone and thus isn't placing itself in unnecessary contrast to the other tracks.

"Etude In E Minor" by Francisco Tarrega is a rather monotonous organ piece, that also sounds rather bitter, and thus is actually a nice addition to the track list. "Sky Lounge" on the other hand is one of those ubercool songs, that stand out with a grand beat. The track starts off with some unchanging glockenspiel play, and one after another there are different beats added to the song by a variety of drum instruments, that all add up to a great whole. The tension that has been risen then unexpectedly resolves into a quiet part, until we are rewarded by a more adrenalinloaden segment, which eventually ends in a rather unceremonious, yet fitting way.
"A Bittersweet Life", as already said, is a good choice as a final track, it's just that there is also the bonus track "A Honeyed Question" sung by actor Lee Gi-yeong, which just doesn't fit into the film with its very Korean like style of old ballads. To be honest I really would have preferred a CD without this track, as it somewhat soils the all in all impressive overall picture of this OST.
Unfortunately, there is also bad news, as at this moment this soundtrack is only available at a price of 80 dollar and up. If any soundtrack is really worth spending so much money for it is questionable. Still, the fact remains that "A Bittersweet Life" scores with great compositions, a bittersweet style, splendid spanish guitar pieces, outstanding beats and incredible coolness. A must-have for any soundtrack-lover!

Copyright 2007 AsianMovieWeb

Track listing

01. Dialogue 1
02. My Sad Night
03. Irreversible Time
04. Dialogue 2
05. Romance (Composed
      By Yuhki Kuramoto)
06. Red Lounge
07. Long Journey
08. Red Ice-rink
09. A Bittersweet Life II
10. A Bittersweet Life
11. Escape
12. Fearness
13. Dark Room
14. Follow
15. Etude In E Minor
      (Composed By
      Francisco Tarrega)
16. Dialogue 3
17. Sky Lounge
18. Irreversible Time
19. A Bittersweet Life III
20. A Honeyed Question

Running Time = 52:23