The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (1996)

19 01 2008

Hong Sang-soo is one of the best contemporary Asian directors. In all of his films he displays a great understanding of human relationships and the psychology around them. His debut film, The Day a Pig Fell into the Well, is no exception but the film doesn’t hold up much on it’s own. It’s interesting to see the themes and motifs that Hong would later explore in their original and flawed form. Sort of acting like a preview for the rest of his filmography.

The film revolves around four characters. The first one we are introduced to is Hyo-sub, a struggling writer who gets in fights a lot. He’s sexually involved with Min-jae and Po-kyong. He seems irritated by the former and only a bit more appreciative of the latter. Po-kyong is married to Dong-woo who reminds me a little of Vive L’Amour-era Hsiao-kong. His marriage with Po-kyong breeds no sex.

At least up to this point, I think you can divide Hong’s career into two sections: his first two films (this and the excellent Power of Kangwon Providence) and everything else. Visually, his first features seem a bit more stylized where his more recent films try to strip down saturated street lights and such. This stuff is present in Day a Pig… but it doesn’t quite work as well. It’s as Hong has the right idea, the right composition, the right “vision” so to speak but the film just looks ugly. This is the same sort of problem that Jon Jost ran into with All the Vermeers in New York.

The subtitles muddy the waters up more than they needed to. I’ve seen a lot of fanmade auto-translated subs that read better. This is a very good film indeed, but the condition of the copy I watched is just as apparent as the cinematic strengths. It’s quite possible that Hong wanted his film to look this way but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Until a better copy is available I’ll just say that visually, Hong can do much better and thematically, this is a suitable introduction.

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3 responses

19 01 2008
Michael Kerpan

I’m reluctant to make any sort of final judgment until I get to see a non-rubbishy version of the film. The Korean DVD is just too bad to count as a proper basis for judgment (rather like the US DVD of HHH’s Puppetmaster). I also don’t really want to rewatch the Korean DVD.

As I recall, however, I was quite impressed with the film, even in an inadequate incarnation.

I unabashedly love Kangwon Province, however.

19 01 2008
Jake Savage

I love Kangwon too. It just feels a bit different. Did you hear about his latest? There’s no IMDB entry but apparently it’s premiere is very soon.

19 01 2008
Michael Kerpan

I just know he has a new film — and that it has been accepted by the Berlin Festival. Nothing more.

Kangwon seems a lot closer to the later films than it does to Pig — at least to me.

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