Extras: 5 Movies for Students to Get Into Korean Cinematography

by Tony Frankel on April 16, 2021

in Extras

South Korean cinematography has a long and rich history that goes back to the mid-twentieth century. And while there have always been some devoted movie lovers who never missed a good Korean production, the wider audience only got interested in this Asian country’s films after 2019. 

That year was triumphant for Korean cinematography, bringing the country its first-ever Oscar win for Best Picture – Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. After that, more people, particularly young, got hungry for more Korean productions. 

Students, in turn, started looking for essays on Korean cinematography more frequently. However, custom writing is a far better option if you’re not acquainted with the topic yet and the deadline is near. But the perfect idea is to finally watch some Korean movies. Here are a few suggestions for you to start with.  

1. Parasite

  • Year: 2019
  • Genre: drama, comedy, thriller 
  • Director: Bong Joon-ho

Undoubtedly the best-known Korean production, Parasite was ground-breaking for the country’s film industry. It made headlines in 2019 when it won four Oscars including Best Picture and Best International Feature film – an unprecedented case for a non-English-language production.

The story here centers around the two South Korean families – the poor Kims and the wealthy Parks that find a kind of a symbiotic coexistence when the Kims find a way to trick the Parks into employing them all as unrelated professionals. However, the truth always comes out sooner or later.

The film instantly became a hit despite its complex twisted plot and an all-Korean cast, becoming a nice side swing from the all-American productions that dominated the Oscars during the previous years. 

2. Snowpiercer

  • Year: 2013 
  • Genre: sci-fi, action 
  • Director: Bong Joon-ho

Before Parasite, there was Snowpiercer, also directed by Bong Joon-ho. And his sci-fi action movie somehow paved the way for the former production’s success, becoming one of the most successful – and expensive – Korean movies ever. 

However, the film is not exclusively Korean as it’s actually a Korean-Czech co-production. Also, it’s based on a French novel – Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette – and stars Hollywood actors Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.

All this makes the movie which once again deals with the social rivalry amidst the aftermath of the major natural disaster, far easier to digest for Western audiences.

3. Oldboy

  • Year: 2003 
  • Genre: action, drama, thriller
  • Director: Park Chan-wook

This neo-noir modern classic has been praised by many including Quentin Tarantino who gave it the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. As if this was not enough, Oldboy has also been highly complimented by the famous film critic Roger Ebert and included in a number of lists of the best movies of the 2000s.

The film’s plot, based on the Japanese manga by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, focuses on the story of Oh Dae-su who struggles for vengeance after spending 15 years imprisoned in a luxury cell. As the man tries to identify his captor and the reason for his imprisonment, he accidentally finds love when he meets a young sushi chef. 

Besides the merits of the film’s plot, it’s also been widely praised for its skillful action sequences that make watching Oldboy a truly breathtaking experience. 

4. My Sassy Girl

  • Year: 2001 
  • Genre: comedy, drama, romance 
  • Director: Kwak Jae-yong

While the majority of the better-known Korean movies tend to be dark and dramatic, there’s also a more romantic side to Korean cinematography. One of the best examples is this 2001’s romcom drama, My Sassy Girl

The story is simple here: a young college student meets an attractive but mischievous girl at a Seoul subway station, gets involved, and later on, she keeps getting him into a lot of trouble.

The story, though, is not entirely fictional: the movie is based on a novel by Kim Ho-sik who, in her turn, compiled it out of a series of her blog posts. Now, isn’t it just a perfect watch for any student?

5. Mist 

  • Year: 1967 
  • Genre: drama 
  • Director: Soo-yong Kim

Now, if you’re ready to dig really deep, here’s this 1967 masterpiece by Soo-yong Kim which is also known as The Foggy Town and Angae. The film is based on Kim Seung-ok’s classic story, A Journey to Mujin, written in 1964 and read by practically every Korean student at home. 

The story centers around the protagonist’s journey from a prosperous industrial town to his native foggy coastal village, Mujin, and on his reflections on his life as he makes this not-so-pleasant journey. Not the most exciting movie to watch, but certainly an enriching one.

More Ideas

Not enough ideas? Then you can continue exploring Korean cinematography on YouTube. There’s a whole channel there maintained by the Korean Film Archive (KOFA) where you can watch nearly 200 classic Korean movies (including Mist) online for free!

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