Now I’m developing an addiction to Korean films. It began when people started talking about Woo, the autistic lawyer, reminding me of The Good Doctor, which I first watched and enjoyed before I found out that it was based on a Korean film about an autistic doctor.
That led me to discover that South Korea focused and improved their movie industry when their economy was floundering. They thought it might be good to make highly interesting movies to attract the foreign market.
Even if the movies were in Korean to appeal to the local market as well, they could translate the conversation into readable subtitles so non-Koreans understood, a clever idea especially for people like me. My husband, who once loved television, now hates it but I can watch Korean films whether he is awake or asleep by simply turning off the sound and reading the dialogue. It doesn’t bother him.
In Korean films the fashion is totally different but that’s not all. They aim to discreetly teach through the stories.
I enjoyed watching Mine. You might call it a murder mystery but that would be oversimplifying a complex plot. A friend who had watched it too gasped at the beautiful clothes, while I loved the jewelry. Earrings didn’t always match. Here we just love things that match.
Sofas are albways flanked by duplicate side tables and a pair of matching lamps. The same values are applied to jewelry. Earrings, ring, necklace, bracelet — all must have the same stones, the same design. Always found that very boring.
In Korean films the fashion is totally different but that’s not all. They aim to discreetly teach through the stories. Nothing drives the lessons home more than My Unfamiliar Family, a story about a middle-class Korean family. The husband/father sees himself as more lower class than his wife, who was pregnant by someone else when they married; but they swore not to reveal this, not to the child herself or to the other children.
The wife/mother is shy, withdrawn, not in the habit of sharing her thoughts except to ask if they had eaten. Operating from this method of holding back, she interprets everything herself, according to what her own imagination feeds her. She does not choose to ask questions or talk about anything with her husband. She just swallows it, suffers, until one day she just bursts and declares a graduation from marriage.
How does one “graduate from marriage”? Is it divorce or a separation? Something like that. It’s like you graduate from college. Nobody asks you why you chose the course you took. Everyone assumes it’s because you wanted to. But now you can leave home, find a job or travel if you can afford to, and no one asks why.
I think that’s the full meaning of a graduation from marriage. No one asks why you say goodbye to each other. It’s simpler that way. One just leaves the house or the house is sold and husband and wife divide the proceeds.
Is it healthy? Do husband and wife understand each other better after graduation? Certainly not! They just go on repressing their anger, hatred, jealousy, whatever brought them to agree to graduate. That is definitely not healthy!
Today (which is so different from yesterday) there are a few people who firmly believe this is not right. Today, people (including me) believe we should acknowledge the truth — no matter how difficult it is — before saying a final goodbye. Otherwise we can never be comfortable in each other’s presence ever again.
Is that necessary? Well, there are always children who have birthdays, weddings, graduation from schools. The husband and wife who created them are required to be there. Sometimes with their new husband and wife. How can this be a genuinely convivial occasion when there is still a lot of anger buried deep in their hearts?
In the more civilized countries they have counseling sessions for people whose marriages are breaking up. I don’t know if they have them in South Korea because I haven’t finished the series, The Unfamiliar Family. But I know that the situation is familiar in the Philippines.
There are so many families here who are under stress but who refuse to acknowledge the facts because of their fear about what people will say. Or because of their strong religious beliefs. But they do not put a stop to what’s going wrong within their families.
The wife/mother in this Korean film reminds me of many Filipinas and the husband/father reminds me of thousands of Filipinos. I wonder — how long can this lying to each other and to the rest of the world be going on?
The answer appears simple: until one of them dies. Another friend told me of her friend who suffered her husband until he died. Then she tried to look up a man she had been in love with. He was dead, too.
That’s probably what happens when our solution is death.