Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 20 News List

'Ardor' tells of love's darker pyschology rather than romance

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Housewife Mi-heun starts a game of love she finds difficulty finishing with doctor In-gyu, in the South Korean movie Ardor.


On the surface, the South Korean movie Ardor is a movie about a bored housewife having a passionate affair, in revenge for her husband's unfaithfulness, featuring sensual love scenes. But, in the background, director Byun Young-joo tries to tell a woman's story about gaining power, about her ego and about her desire. The film has a feminist message.

Housewife Mi-heun thinks her life is pure happiness, with a loving husband and a beautiful daughter, until one Christmas Eve she finds her husband's mistress in her bed. The illusion of a perfect life is shattered.

To help mend their marriage, Mi-heun and her husband move to the countryside, where she meets In-gyu, a charming doctor who plays around with women. In-gyu proposes a game of love to Mi-heun and a passionate affair begins between them. The rule of the game is that as long as one of them doesn't say "I love you," the affair may continue. Mi-heun decides to create a series of lies for her husband, in the same way her husband used to lie to her.

Actors Kim Yoon-jin and Lee Jong-won both give convincing performances. Kim, in particular, renders a depth of acting, shifting from a pure and vulnerable wife to a woman of secrets, also gaining vigor in life from the dangerous extra-marital relationship. Kim was the North Korean assassin in action thriller Shiri (1999); and the selfish woman in Mr. Iron Palm (2002).

But it is Ardor that sees her give her most polished performance. By getting the most out of his leading actress, director Byun makes this movie a film by a woman for women.

It is not a sugar-coated tale, telling you to expect Mr. Right, but the voicing of a woman's desire and independence in a gender-unequal society such as South Korea. With this movie as her first dramatic film, Byun (who was a prolific documentary maker prior to the film) also shows a sophisticated depiction of women's psychology in her detailed narratives.

Film Notes

Directed by: Byun Young-joo


Kim Yoon-jin (Mi-heun),

Lee Jong-won (In-gyu)

Running time:111 minutes

Taiwan Release:today

The only pitfall of the movie is that the development of the story is a little predictable. For those who are used to a Hollywood style-housewife-having-an-affair movie, one might be disappointed to find no surprises toward the end of the movie.

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