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[Film Review] Black Light, directed by BAE Jongdae
2021-03-10 10:19:00Hits 305
22nd JEONJU International Film Festival (2021)
[Film Review]Black Light

2021-03-09

👪Who Is Responsible For Their Deaths?
[Film Review] Black Light, directed by BAE Jongdae

Hello there,

Among last year´s JEONJU IFF lineup, we would like to share a review of Black Light by BAE Jongdae. The film starred YEOM Hyeran, KIM Sieun, and PARK Jihoo, and YEOM won the Best Acting Prize at the 21st JEONJU IFF. 

"I got the impression that she was walking toward this big typhoon 
that´s coming her way head on."

Actor YEOM Hyeran said about her character in an interview. Let´s read what kind of typhoon the film has from the film critic CHO Hyeyoung´s perspective. 

´Black Light´
💌Review by film critic CHO Hyeyoung
One dark night, two cars from opposite directions crash and get into a car accident. One man dies, while the other man remains unconscious for the second year. Black Light is the story centered around the two men’s wives, Heeju (KIM Sieun) and Youngnam (YEOM Hyeran), who were left behind. Heeju, who is suffering after her husband’s death, moves back to her hometown and returns to her former workplace which is an auto parts factory. Here, Heeju meets Youngnam. Heeju knows that her husband is at fault for driving across the centerline, and avoids Youngnam out of guilt. But instead of blaming Heeju, Youngnam tries to comfort her, but Heeju questions Youngnam’s sincerity. In fact, Youngnam really does look like she has a lot on her mind. The problem is that Youngnam isn’t the only one who looks suspicious. Heeju, Youngnam’s daughter Eunyoung (PARK Jihu), Heeju’s brother Hyungju, the factory manager, and even the police officer who was in charge of the accident seem to be hiding a piece of the truth. Heeju, who is drowning from the feeling of guilt, tries to unveil the truth in order to lessen the pain she’s experiencing. 

💛Black Light Trailer💛

Click here for a full interview 👇
The ethics of blaming oneself and neglecting the truth 

Black Light is a story about misdeed and responsibility, but there are no clear antagonists or assailants. No, perhaps it’s a strange film that claims everyone is the assailant. Everyone related to the case seems to blame themselves, to a point the two biggest victims blame themselves and even discuss the possibility of them being the cause of the accident. Blaming oneself is different from feeling guilty. When one blames oneself, it’s an act of hating and despising oneself, much more in comparison to the damage they’ve caused. The reason why the characters in Black Light go beyond simply feeling guilty and start blaming themselves is that they cannot understand the cause of the damage and the pain, so they have no choice but blame themselves. There are two reasons why they can’t figure out the cause. One is because it’s too painful for people to face responsibilities, so they end up avoiding it. Eunyoung ignored the sign when her father tried to commit suicide, Heeju’s brother hid the fact that his brother-in-law drank and drove, the factory manager followed the company’s policy and ignored his employees so the company could avoid the accident from being seen as an industrial accident, while the police officer who was in charge of the case questioned if he inspected the accident poorly. Both Youngnam and Heeju ignore the fact that their husbands may have attempted suicide. The feeling of guilt stops the truth from surfacing. The other reason why they can’t figure out the cause is more fundamental. The world is too complicated to perfectly understand other people, but this fact is hard to bear. The truth can’t be reduced to a single clear statement, so to realize the truth, we must go beyond ourselves and look into each other´s pain involved.

Heeju tries to reduce her pain through acts of self-injury like hitting herself on the cheeks or the head, and she ends up hurting her brother and his wife. Youngnam ignores the pain her daughter Eunyoung is in and blames her unconscious husband. When one blames oneself excessively, it’s like passing around a bomb of guilt. In the midst of all this, Eunyoung is the only one who looks at the pains of others. After carefully watching Heeju slap herself at the funeral, Eunyoung gives away her secret. Eunyoung tried to reduce another’s pain through her act, and was able to break the chains of secrets that had been hardening while people were only paying attention to their feelings of guilt.

Two kinds of light 

This film is also a story about the collision between light and light, and iron and iron. The collision of light is a metaphor for the traffic accident, but it also represents the collision between pains. Strong light, or pain, can turn someone blind. Through the use of meticulous lighting, Black Light sharply implies the duality of light in a cinematic way. The warm yellow light used in the hospital where Youngnam´s husband is staying is in contrast to the pain Youngnam is feeling as she holds out with much patience. Instead, the bare trees on the streets under the cold bleak winter light seem to speak for the pains of those left behind. Heeju, Youngnam, and Eunyoung’s faces are often overlapped in close-ups. Half of their faces are covered in shadows, and the other halves are exposed to light. Such use of light and framing is a visualization of how they cause pain to each other, yet they’re under the same circumstances. Hence, they’re the ones who can understand each other the most. Black Light doesn’t simply try to expose and display pain, but instead, it gives space to those in pain and watches quietly. Through this, the film not only shows respect to the ones left behind, but those who have died as well. This is how director BAE Jongdae took the sensitive yet strong faces of Heeju and Youngnam, played by KIM Sieun and YEOM Hyeran respectively, as the background to cinematize how another’s pains and causes can’t be realized so easily.

Two kinds of iron 

If the secrets everyone was holding onto were unveiled, and if we could piece together all the truths, will we be able to understand others and the world? When Youngnam’s husband wakes up, will we find out about the truth behind the case? What is the truth behind this case anyway? While everyone’s feeling guilty, the assailant that never shows themselves is the company. Despite having multiple industrial accidents happen, the only way the company shows itself is through the banner that reads, “Accident-free for 1,000 days.” The company refuses to see the laborers who were involved in industrial accidents as their employees. By using subcontractors, the company outsources risks and persistently ignores the painful sounds of colliding iron. Instead, this sound is expressed through the ringing sounds in Heeju’s ears.

We´ve all experienced it many times. Despite finding out a piece of the truth, the truth continues to be lost and it ends up becoming even more unclear. Rather, finding more pieces could lead innocent people, who might themselves be other victims, to end up blaming themselves too. This happens because the biggest assailant doesn’t admit their fault or show themselves. That is why the pain only grows. After hearing Youngnam’s husband woke up, Heeju and Youngnam leave for the hospital. On their way, they face an elk, stunned by the sudden bright light. The two women who were blinded by the light of pain won’t avoid the truth or the victim any longer. They won’t turn away from finding out who the assailant at fault is, and what the person who tried to commit suicide was suffering from. 
CHO Hyeyoung Film critic, programmer at several film festivals, including the Seoul International Women´s Film Festival. She is currently researching and writing as a member of “PROJECT 38,” a project that makes videos from a feminist and queer perspective. 
💛The Artist Is Present!💛
"Special Focus: I am Independent" Revealed

Next time, we will bring an introduction of JEONJU IFF´s special section, "Special Focus: I am Independent,” which features seven female pioneers of independent filmmaking. 

Please stay tuned!


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