Screen Education

Light, Darkness VISUALISING LOSS IN SECRET SUNSHINE

Secret Sunshine is an appropriate text for senior secondary students, and may relate to learning outcomes in Media Arts, Philosophy and Korean. It is recommended that teachers watch the film beforehand to gauge its appropriateness for use as a classroom resource. Schools are also advised that Secret Sunshine contains adult themes (including the death of a child and depiction of self-harm) and a sex scene. The film has a running time of 142 minutes, and is in Korean. It is available on DVD with English subtitles internationally through The Criterion Collection.

In South Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong’s second film, Peppermint Candy (1999), the protagonist, Yong-ho (Sol Kyung-gu), chances upon a woman (Ko Seo-hie) watching the rain as he wanders through the nocturnal streets of Kunsan. As they sit in an empty bar with the wistful strains of Ray Peterson’s song ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ playing in the background, the woman asks Yong-ho what brought him to Kunsan. His reply, ‘To look for someone,’ appears initially to be in reference to his role as a police detective and his search for a suspect in the city. However, when the woman asks Yong-ho who he is looking for, his reply shifts to his personal narrative of loss: ‘I heard … my first love lives in Kunsan. I don’t know exactly, but somewhere in Kunsan.’ Perplexed and amused by Yong-ho’s seemingly futile search, the woman asks, ‘If you don’t know where she is, how can you see her?’ Smiling softly to himself, Yong-ho answers:

It doesn’t matter. I just came … she lives here. I can walk on the same street where she’s walked and see the same ocean that she’s looked at […] we are in the same rain now. The rain I’m looking [at] is the same rain she’s looking at.

Following this exchange, Yong-ho spends the night with the woman, who offers to stand in for his first love, Sun-im (Moon So-ri).

This melancholic tracing of a shared geography is repeated in Lee’s fourth film, (2007), in which the central character, Lee Shin-ae (Jeon Do-yeon), reveals that her decision to move with her son, Jun (Seon Jung-yeop), to

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