By Vanessa Nim (April 9th, 2018)
Directed by: Jae Won Jung
Written by: Jae Won Jung
Produced by: Ho Sung Jung
Key Cast: Se In Park (Sun-Woo), Woo Kyum Shin (Jae-Ha)
There is a fine line between life and death, remembering and fading, that we dance across and tiptoe around during our lives. Where is the line between existing and living? And what is the difference between memory and experience? With her directorial debut, Shadow, Jae Won Jung presents a haunting and captivating film that examine these lines and explores the partnership of life, death and human existence.
Written, directed and filmed by Jung, Shadow begins with Jae-Ha (Woo Kyum Shin), an aspiring documentary filmmaker who finds a flyer advertising a large payment for someone to film a person for three days. After contacting the poster’s email, Jae-Ha is directed to film a stage actress, Sun-Woo (Se In Park), in exchange for $20,000. The rest of the film follows Jae-Ha as he completes the assignment, leading us to watch Sun-Woo through Jae-Ha’s camera lens as he follows behind her.
While the film explores dense and abstract themes of life, death, existence and experience, it does so with very little dialogue and no direct conversation between the two characters. The vast majority of the dialogue consists of Sun-Woo’s monologues for her upcoming play, which we watch her rehearse as Jae-Ha films for his assignment. Flirting with distant themes of dissociation and understanding our place in the world, about memory, existence and perception, Sun-Woo’s monologues are the catalyst of the film. These monologues carry the weight of the film, showcasing Jung’s themes and creating the silhouette that is Sun-Woo’s character.
Although not her own words, Sun-Woo’s recitation of the monologues bring us into her character, painting a portrait that encapsulates the familiar melancholy of the existence between living and dying. The heavy, contemplative impact of the monologues is formed from Jung's beautiful writing as well as Se In Park’s skillful performance.
Park’s portrayal of Sun-Woo is breathtaking. While our interactions with Sun-Woo are limited to Jae-Ha’s observation of her, Park’s performance unmasks Sun-Woo’s character and pulls us into her dance around the lines of existing in the light and disappearing in the shadows. The actors reverberating delivery of the monologues lifts Jung’s words and brings them to settle at the bottom of our chests, where they rest as we chew on the grain of our own lives and existence.
In addition to the beautifully crafted script and Park’s resounding performance, Jung’s cinematography in Shadowalso helps to translate the films dense themes on top of simply creating a visually entrancing film. From the use of muted, distant colours, theatrical lighting, and the mix of handheld and still camera shots, Jung’s cinematographic direction perfectly distills the films themes and showcase her talents as a photographer and filmmaker.
Jung’s photographic background shines through in Shadow as it incorporates an element of stillness in many shots, creating a visual parallel to still photography. The choice of stillness, while perhaps subconscious on Jung’s part, further help to showcase the dualities of human existence that the film deals with (particularly the difference of experience and perception) while also working to deepen the films characters.
From its entrancing script, haunting performances, and skillful cinematography, Shadow stands out as a strong debut for Jung as a new director. The young filmmakers ability to craft and distill dense themes, as well as her keen photographic sense and eye for visuals, has worked to create a well-rounded and breaktaking film. Shadow stands as a strong foundation to Jung’s budding career and is an exemplary step on her foray into the world of filmmaking.
- Vanessa Nim