I knew absolutely nothing about this one going in – in fact, I kind of thought it was a documentary or something. It is not, though it does have a historical setting. During the Korean War, a couple of soldiers from South Korea and a small group of North Korean soldiers get separated from their respective armies, and end up in the same isolated mountain village, whose eccentric residents have no knowledge of the war or modernity in general (they have no idea what guns and grenades are). Oh, there’s also an American soldier there. After a tense few days, this motley crew of abandoned enemies become involved in the life of the village, forming a new unified society with the villagers – until an American unit comes to finish the job the lost American soldier didn’t, cutting off supply lines to North Korea.
I think I’ve never seen a Korean film I didn’t at least like, and most of them I’ve loved, and this was no exception. For some reason, Korean filmmakers have a knack for mixing tones and styles in a film and it coming out amazing instead of unbalanced. There are some totally ridiculous scenes here, like when the North and South Korean soldiers, still suspicious of each other, wind up blowing up the corn supply of the village – it all falls back down as popcorn. Later, they’re attached by a boar, and for the first time, the enemy soldiers have to work together to keep from getting killed – the whole thing is done in a breathless slomo that’s totally unlike almost everything else in the movie, but it’s wonderful. The characters won me over quickly and the final scenes hit me right in the tear ducts. I think this is only the second film of the challenge to make me cry, and the other one, Mr. Nobody, is still sitting atop the list.
So thanks, Nick – I never would’ve picked this out of a lineup, but it was very special.
Stats and stuff…
2005, South Korea
directed by Kwang-Hyun Park, written by Joong Ki and Kwang-Hyun Park
starring Jae-yeong Jeong, Ha-kyun Shin, Hye-jeong Kang, Ha-ryong Lim, Jae-kyeong Seo, Deok-Hwan Ryu, Steve Tashler
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Welcome to Dongmakgol entered my chart:
Welcome to Dongmakgol > Film Socialisme
Welcome to Dongmakgol > Dial M for Murder
Welcome to Dongmakgol > Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Welcome to Dongmakgol < Wings of Desire
Welcome to Dongmakgol < She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Welcome to Dongmakgol < The Trouble With Harry
Welcome to Dongmakgol > Harakiri
Welcome to Dongmakgol < Smiles of a Summer Night
Welcome to Dongmakgol < Wild at Heart
Welcome to Dongmakgol < The Constant Gardener
Welcome to Dongmakgol < El Dorado
Welcome to Dongmakgol < Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Final #432 out of 3692 films on my chart (88%)
It is now my #1 Kwang-Hyun Park film (looks like the only feature he’s directed!), my #26 Based on Theatre film, my #21 War film, and my #10 film of 2005.
Welcome to Dongmakgol was recommended by Nick Dallas, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook. Averaging together this #432 ranking with my #777 ranking of his other film, La Haine, gives Nick an average ranking of 604.
A few more screenshots…