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The Asian Concept of "Fate" in King and the Clown

 
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agathawrj
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:46 pm    Post subject: The Asian Concept of "Fate" in King and the Clown Reply with quote

My heart ached when the closing shot zoomed in on Jang-Saeng and Gong-Gil leaping high into the sky. As the picture faded out, I recalled their final dialog - promising each other to be clowns again in their next life, performing not for their livelihoods, not for any king, but for themselves... At that moment, I suddenly understood the theme of the movie.

The King and the Clown is an Asian movie representing the flavor of our aesthetics, something that is subdued and implicit. And the topic of fate, whether through conformity or rebellion, is very Asian, because we have always lived under all kinds of restrictions and lacked the way to escape even mentally.

At the end of the movie, as Gong-Gil desperately tries to protect Jang-Saeng and follows him up the tightrope one last time, I realized that this was exactly the way our mothers and our mother's mothers had lived their lives - once attached to a man, no matter how pathetic he might have been, they remained loyal to him for the rest of their lives.

The above is just a small part of the movie that moved me. Ever since watching this movie, I have been thinking about characteristics of Asian ideology. There is no concept of a 'God' in our minds whom we can speak to and receive answers from directly. For many believers, God is more of a disciplinarian, who forces them to agree to live under the rules. That's the embodiment of the system/institution.

For thousands of years, restricted by feudal hierarchy and patriarchal morality, we have faced all kinds of invisible enemies but seldom answered to our own inner souls. We learned to ascribe all real-life conflicts and unrealized dreams to destiny so much that we seldom fought back and eventually grew to lack the courage and means to do so. In the movie, we see Jang-Saeng's struggles and the king's sorties against the system; but when Jang-Saeng and Gong-Gil finally fall to the ground, everything comes back to cruel reality - from an Asian perspective, fate prevails... Well, perhaps, to soften the tragedy of this ending or to challenge this idea of unchangeable fate, director Lee has chosen to lead us back to that lush mountainside in the ending scene... only this time, I just couldn't tell where they're heading.

The way King and the Clown presents this theme is quite amazing, hiding its intentions until the last minute. When you tumble onto the topic of fate, a mix of emotions emerges from your mind, but you won't find it jarring because of its fluid handling. The transition from comedy to tragedy in this movie is very distinctive.

We go to the cinema expecting to catch a homosexual story and to ogle the handsome co-lead. Instead, we find selfless affection infused throughout the movie. And when the curtain is finally drawn, we are touched and can only sigh at the heaviness of life (or fate, if you will) again and again.

In this movie, there is no bad guy. Where fate is concerned, no one is really at fault.

In the real Asia, where societies have been restricted to highly regulated social norms for a long time, and whose people have to pay full attention to cope with survival (from hunger and endless wars), the topic of fate cuts really close to society's essence just like as is depicted in the movie.


Afterthought

The West likes to talk about humanity, desire, etc. Yet the world at large is still very much shaped by subconscious fear and uncertainties permeated by the notion of fate and destiny. (Does Jang-Saeng believe in fate? I believe he does. Does he succumb to it? No, he does not, yet I believe in the end he accepts it, not out of ignorance or fear, but out of a sense of helplessness.) It has been a long time since a movie touched the topic so deeply on this level. The Korean film industry may be young and developing, but this time it has done a wonderful job of giving us a simple and yet great work of artistry to ponder.

While the above comments focus on philosophical and historical aspects, my true concern is really about the durability of Chinese society, which is undergoing huge changes which fall heavily on its lower (and even middle) classes. Thus, it is the movie's underlying cultural background and psychology that I've been pondering.

In the last few years, the ethos of Chinese society has changed tremendously and rapidly... I'm not sure if this movie believes in fatalism, but there is no doubt that for Asians, the belief in 'destiny' and 'fortune' will continue to affect a huge group of people for a long time to come. While this can have a positive effect on stabilizing society, it can leave much to be desired in the exploration and enlightenment of the human essence and self identity.
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nslan
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Agatha!

Thanks for sharing your viewpoint.

I'm actually quite curious if it is something similar to this viewpoint, in addition to the "romance" element, that garner so many female Asian wangnam pyein / addicts to love and suport this movie.

I believe the majority of the Asian addicts/fans to this movie are female. Out of these, I guess a lot are hooked to pretty-boy Lee Jun-ki (no punch intended - I like to look at him too Confused Razz Smile Rolling Eyes ). Well, there is nothing wrong with this or seeing a movie only because Orlando Bloom's in it Rolling Eyes Laughing . Yet, many in this group are older and wiser women and not idol-worshipping teens, so there must be more going on, right???

My thoughts...

I believe to some extent Jang-saeng symbolises the fatherly-figure in Asian society while Gong-gil symbolises the motherly-figure. (I remember director Lee did mention somewhere in one of his earlier interview that these two characters represent the yin and yang of Korean Society.)

In most instances, mothers (not only in Asia but everywhere else) tends to be the passive ones in the family, leaving the major decision-making to their men. They tends to take the submissive role to protect the people they love and care for. Yet, under extreme situations, we often see it is the mothers who will react with courage and stand up to fight for what they have to - like Gong-gil killing the troupe master, cutting his wrist in front of the king, etc. In a way Gong-gil represents both the weakest and the strongest parts in all of us, so I guess many female viewers identify with Gong-gil in these respects without realizing. The only part I have yet to fully comprehend is why such a shocking attachment to this character. Would the movie draw such an impact if it is a female role character? I seriously doubt so...

I have seem a few comments that mentioned about Gong-gil representing the feminine elements. Not very sure what that means but if it something like above, then I guess K&C is really one hell of a feminist film to some degree.

BTW, I do not think the appeal of K&C is due to Gong-gil alone, Jang-saeng and the other characters are equally memerising. More to say on these when I have the time...

In short, I guess the above is only one reason why people are attracted to this movie. Of course there are many, but I believe all pretexts are related in one way or another to our own human nature and how these characters (Jang-saeng, Gong-gil, Yeonsan, Nok-su and even 6,7 & 8 ) personify ourselves in real-life.

My 2 cents worth...



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dunnbother
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi nslan Razz

you wrote...

In a way Gong-gil represents both the weakest and the strongest parts in all of us, so I guess many female viewers identify with Gong-gil in these respects without realizing. The only part I have yet to fully comprehend is why such a shocking attachment to this character. Would the movie draw such an impact if it is a female role character? I seriously doubt so...


let me try and see if you like my answer....

i think female viewers love gong gil was because gong gil who is a guy who is first and foremost 'gentle' and completely non threatening... plus the fact that he is so beautiful has very much helped to capture most female hearts.

would it draw such an impact if it's a female role character?
if it's a female role character..then i don't think we'll be discussing this movie here......

why i love gong gil....

because gong gil is a guy and that's why women love him. he is the embodiment of gentleness and courage when courage is needed. he is non threatening and is always calm... and quiet (never nag or blah blah blah or yak yak yak...women hate talkative men, believe me. ever seen those who yak non-stop on the mrt train? makes you turn blue) and he has wits (true intelligence) for he is the one who finally made the king laughed thus saving jang saeng and all. and what makes the role of gong gil all the more alluring and appealing is the way he was being loved by jang saeng and wanted by a king. its every woman's secret desire to be loved by a protective lover (jang saeng) which would mean security and wanted by someone who has power (king) which would mean wealth.

so female viewers love gong gil for what he is and at the same time he was sharing that secret desire with us for what we women could only dream of...
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lady wakasa
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is why I love being able to have some back and forth about this - it gives me (and everyone) a chance to weigh in on this from all sorts of viewpoints.

As a non-Asian: I see Lee Jun-ki as a major drawing card for this movie (although I feel a little bit like a cradle-robber when I see pictures of him! %^D). And I agree that the character of Gong-gil does represent a feminine side to Jang-Saeng's masculine side, much like the yin and yang that Lee Jun-ik has discussed.

But I don't agree that most mothers are passive souls - I know too many mothers / wives / friends who aren't! Chances are still good that their partners have higher salaries, but this in no way equates to dominance in the relationship itself. (Where this comes from has roots in a number of things that would be off topic in this context.) And most of my female friends have opted not to go the traditional family route at all. Taking care of loved ones (including their spouses), making sure that all is well, doesn't equate to submissiveness at all!

And I agree that this wouldn't be the same movie if the Gong-gil character were female (and the story changed appropriately). Think about something like The Duelist, with the tough-as-nails Namsoon (although she sometimes comes close to being over the top). That works, in great part because she's clearly more than capable of taking care of herself.

So I don't see Gong-gil as a strict representation of "womanhood," per se.

And... keep in mind that Gong-gil is definitely not as passive as the character might look on the surface. He is a gentle soul; but it takes quite a bit of strength to SPOILER (highlight to read) kill the manager (and he's not aware he's even killed the man), to attempt to help / befriend the king, to defy the king on Jang-Saeng's behalf, to cut his wrists END SPOILER. He may be easygoing, but he can attack if he has to.

I don't know. It seems that this is beyond gender somehow, that what's being addressed involves characteristics that can be found in all of us. Maybe it goes back to yin and yang, the completeness of the entire whole (and it's been years since I learned about yin and yang, so I won't be able to speak much to that). Maybe it's part of the "unity" of the three leads: the gentleness of Gong-gil, the devil-may-care attitude of Jang-Saeng, and the frustrated hopelessness of Yeonsang (and I don't think he was really evil as much as a victim). And maybe that's why more women than men like (or admit to liking) this movie; women don't have society insisting that they smother their emotions.

Of course there is much more to the movie than the character of Gong-gil. There's the rivalry between the king and Jang-seong, which comes close to composing another movie in and of itself. There's the king and his historical position, which has been the focus of numerous stories in the past. So the allure of the Gong-gil character is key, but not the only attraction to this movie.

Just my opinion, for what it's worth.

(And Orlando Bloom looks good, but he broke my heart with his lack of acting chops... %^{)
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nslan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi dunnbother,

I guess I see and understand your point...so Gong-gil is not only ice-cream lickingly good-looking to women, he personifies the embodiment of gentleness and courage that is admirable in either or both men and/or women. But I guess the main appeal has to be that he is able to capture both the hearts and souls of a protective lover as well as a powerful man in a non-threatening way to women (Being a man and not another woman). Laughing Rolling Eyes Laughing


BTW, from the word "mrt" you used? I guess you are also from S'pore.
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nslan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greeting My Lady,

lady wakasa wrote:

As a non-Asian: I see Lee Jun-ki as a major drawing card for this movie (although I feel a little bit like a cradle-robber when I see pictures of him! %^D).


Since K&C lacks the beautiful women element expected in so many Asian movies, then may be we should suggest that a change of formula to "beautiful" man instead to promote this movie. Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes

Quote:
But I don't agree that most mothers are passive souls - I know too many mothers / wives / friends who aren't! Chances are still good that their partners have higher salaries, but this in no way equates to dominance in the relationship itself...Taking care of loved ones (including their spouses), making sure that all is well, doesn't equate to submissiveness at all!


May be passive or submissive is not really the correct word to use. In many ways, mothers are definitely the strength of the family. What I'm trying to say is that of course women have the capability to act and take care of things, but up till recent time they are not "expected" to take the lead role due to social constraint and the notion that men are supposed to be the decision-maker. But they can take the lead and can even do better. In some way, being the softer, gentler of the two, Gong-gil touches this connection in women.

BTW, Yin is not necessary weaker than Yang, it's just different.

Just my 2 cents worth!!!

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dunnbother
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi nslan Razz

hmmm....is it just me or did i detect a minute amounts of jealousy in your tone? Wink ice-cream lickingly....good-looking? nah..

i wouldn't use that word 'ice-cream'. maybe just 'simply gorgeous' will do...

as like gong gil is simply gorgeously beautiful and junki is simply gorgeously handsome. Very Happy

you guessed right. i am from singapore but right now i am overseas...

i have reread your post dated Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:13 am and noted that you have made some interesting points there. i have my own opinions too about this movie, in fact tons of it, but somehow they're all jumbled up in my mind that i didn't know how or where to begin sharing them with you guys.

i am happy that i have stumbled onto this site where only the wang-nam pyeins are. i can't describe enough just how much i love this movie and love jang saeng and gong gil...lets say i am simply obsessed...happily obsessed.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Dunnbother,

dunnbother wrote:
hmmm....is it just me or did i detect a minute amounts of jealousy in your tone? Wink ice-cream lickingly....good-looking? nah..


Nahh Wink ....not jealous (Oh I like the boy...very much. He is gorgeously good looking in his own ways but his likeability is more due to the impression of a person who is very warm and very approachable. ) but very curious and fascinated. There is why I'd like to understand people perception of him and the character Gong-gil that he played.

Quote:
i have reread your post dated Sat Jan 06, 2007 11:13 am and noted that you have made some interesting points there. i have my own opinions too about this movie, in fact tons of it, but somehow they're all jumbled up in my mind that i didn't know how or where to begin sharing them with you guys.

i am happy that i have stumbled onto this site where only the wang-nam pyeins are. i can't describe enough just how much i love this movie and love jang saeng and gong gil...lets say i am simply obsessed...happily obsessed.


This forum is all about sharing and exchanging our views on K&C.

I think the words by Firewalker may summarise how you are feeling now -("There are many good things about this movie but it's difficult to pinpoint them all. Its immediate impact is not strong, but its goodness lingers very subtly in your mind and grows as time passes by. It gives you a comfortable aftertaste that you have just watched a very good movie but the odd thing is not being able to tell just where this feeling is coming from. ") So just take your time to consolidate your thoughts and write what you want to express/share.

Personally, I'm inspired by the movie. I believe it is one very unique movie and there are a lot to be read into/out of and around it. Your view and experience will also change, depending on the time and stage at which you watched the movie. So I'm not surprised that you are happily obssessed Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy with it. Afterall, lot of wangnam pyeins are still enthralled one year on... Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes



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dunnbother
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hi nslan, Very Happy

i've finally just done a complete run-through of the whole forum and came away in awe of you guys of having created this site so brilliantly, the colours and the format...and such a painstaking job of gathering news and information and the translations…and you're more or less the webmaster, wow. Razz

and your name is soonlan. Wink

and i saw the name of mirager on the long list of names. from soompi, i found out that mirager was in fact homura. as we know, "mirager" was seen throughout in youtube and homura was in soompi. what a shock i found out later that they were the same person. lol.

homura has written some great comments about the K&C in soompi and i've enjoyed reading them all except for one, that is his/her rather opinionated view that jang saeng is the soul of this movie while downplaying the role of gong gil. i c&p from soompi of what he/she had written "Jang-saeng is the soul of this movie. If it were not for Jang-saeng, this movie would have no meaning".

too opinionatedly written, don't you think? i like homura's comments most of the time except for that.

according to the director joon ik, jang saeng and gong gil is like yang and yin. and in chinese cultures, where the nature and study of yang and yin derived from, the first essential step to good health is the balance of the yang and yin of the human body. if the balance is tilted, the body will become sick. too much yang, the body suffers heat and too much yin, the body suffers cold. so yin yang really means balance. if jang saeng is the soul of this story, than there will be too much yang and will likely to cause an imbalance and the outcome will not be a healthy one. i would rather say 'jang saeng and gong gil' is the soul of this movie since both are of equal importance.

this place is rather quiet, can something to be done to get more people to come and join us here? should i go to some of those forums that i've been to and let known about this place? not that i have been to that many forums, only about 4 in fact.

i only came to know and watch K&C in late june 06 in spore and then it wasn't until a few months later, like sept that i started searching the net for reviews and news about the movie. i realised i should have done it sooner, anyway no use crying over split milk or wasted time. thru the net, i soon found out that junki was so popular with fan sites all over.

the first forum i went to was asianfanatics, then d-addict, then junkisingapore but came away rather disappointed because by then the frenzy over K&C was practically over and female fans were swooning over junki and not really interested in discussions about the K&C . then i found soompi, but the frenzy was down too and even now that K&C thread over there had hardly moved. anyway i enjoyed reading up all those past comments. there is an advantage and disadvantage in joining soompi late. the disadvantage was not being there to join in those discussions while the topic was still hot. and the advantage is not there to soak up all those different views and comments and being unduly influenced by them before i could form my own ideas and opinions about the movie. spoilers are killers and that is why i would steer clear away from reading spoilers if i could help it.

do write more often. i enjoy reading your posts. Wink

what i am hoping now is that K&C will win the oscar prize for the best foreign film..
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nslan
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi dunnbother,

Thanks for the compliance. Wink
(BTW, I hope you are not someone i know in person...pai-say, pai-say)

But the site wouldn't come about without the efforts of Lady Wakasa and Majou, the co-founders and many helps from our volunteers and friends. So, a big THANK YOU is due from me to them.

Sorry to inform that K&C did not make it to the final 9 for the Oscar Selection. Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad What a pity...but we are doing our best to help promote this movie wherever we can...especially around the current Film Festivals in the US and anywhere we know of. Hopefully, more people will come by and share their views as they catch the movie in the cinema.

The site was started only about 2 months back so we are still gathering strength. Hopefully, as more western viewers catch the movie, they will come by to offer their takes on/around/about the movie. But if you can help to let people know about our site and to come & share, we would be very grateful.

As for mirager's view on the movie, I think everybody has their own opinion and interpretation.

For me, I would say I identify more with Jang-saeng than with Gong-gil. To me, the story is about Jang-saeng but this does not undermine the significance of Gong-gil. How importance Gong-gil is to Jang-saeng is how important Gong-gil is to the story. Can Jang-saeng live without Gong-gil? No. So similarly, there is no story without Gong-gil. All in all I want to say is that the Gong-gil that we see, love and cherish is the Gong-gil that Jang-saeng see, love and cherish.

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lady wakasa
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to agree with that.

With what? Well, that everyone will have their own interpretations, but both Jang-saeng and Gong-gil are critical to the story. Both have individual strengths and character attributes to admire, but they're both key to what happens.

And, for that matter, the king plays his own role as a catalyst. Without his intervention, Jang-saeng and Gong-gil never figure out their relationship to each other.

And I don't mind people having strong opinions either way, even if I don't agree with them. It'd be a pretty quick discussion if everyone saw the exact same things!!! %^}
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Alucard
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The original chinese version by the Author...


《王的男人》中的东方命题?哲学?审美与社会
《王的男人》 : 一切关乎命?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

当镜头定格在跃?空中的长生和孔?时,我的心有一?被刺痛的感觉。接?,当画?中的颜色??褪去时,我想起了两人之?的??——他们许诺??世还?????,表演?为生存?也?是为了王,而是为了他们自己……在那一刻,我?然看明白了这部电影的主题。

《王的男人》是一部体现了亚洲人审美?味的影片,如此柔和?如此?蓄。它关乎命?的主题——?论是对此的接?抑或是抗争都?常具有东方色彩。我们总是生活在?缚之下,甚至在精神上都缺?一?逃逸之路。

在影片的最?部分,当孔??望地拼命?护?长生并最终跟?长生走上了那?高高的绳索时,我?识到那?正是我们的?亲以??亲的?亲们生活的方??——一旦把自己托付给一个男人?,?论他多么时??济,她都愿在自己的余生里忠于他。

以上?是这部电影感动我的一个?地方。在这部电影以?,我开始?索起有关亚洲人精神特质的问题。在我们的?识里没有一个?以直接?对并?其负责的主,?使对于那些相信神佛的人,他们概念里的神明更多的则是在扮演?一个处罚者的角色——这使得他们能够长期心甘情愿地生活在规范底下。而那正是一?制度化的体现。

?百年?,?制于?建等级?宗法礼教的我们?对的是??无形的“敌人?,?很少?对我们自己的?魂。于是,我们学会了把所有自身与现实的冲?以?那些今生无法实现的梦想归咎于命?的安排,因而也?少??抗,确实也无从抗辩。影片里,我们看到了长生的抗争和王的?围,但最?,当长生和孔??地的时候,一切都还是?回归到那个严酷的现实的?……于是导演??心了,在影片的最?为我们?现了那幅?山翠谷的场景,?是我?知?,这一次长生与孔?将去?哪里……

《王的男人》谈起命?的这个主题时很有技巧,它?动声色,直到最?一分钟??你?识到其主题的所在。而当你??然大悟时,一?混?的情感便浮现在你的心头,但??会令你感到?兀,因为这一转?是如此地?畅?这部电影在处?悲喜?剧的手法上很有特点。

起?,我们是去电影院看?性?和漂亮男人的,紧接?,我们?现了影片里弥漫?的情感和爱?,最?,当影片结?时,我们?嘘?已的?是“命??这个主题了?

在这部电影里没有??人,一切关乎命?——??调和的命??

一个真实的亚洲,长期约?在礼法制度下的社会,人民需?将毕生精力投放到生存上(饥?和无穷的战乱)的国度里,从命?的主题切入,你似乎?能更逼近它的精神本质。

?记:

在我的?象里,西方人喜谈人性?欲望等主题。《王的男人》似乎是很久以?第一次将一个久?了的但实际上?投注于这个世界上众多人??念深处的样貌?示了出?。韩国电影业的崛起虽然还?长久?根基未稳,但这次它确实为我们带?了一部精彩的作?。

题外?:

上述评论的视角???于历?和哲学。其实此刻我想到更多的则是:处于巨?中的当代中国社会中?下层的人民,其对于现实巨大?差表现出的??力——这背????的文化背景乃至精神状?已令我执迷许久了。

我们也看到,近年中国社会的?潮在一?急速蜕?的状?下,?生了一?根本性转?。但?论怎样,正如我?敢定义《王的男人》是?“宿命?一样,我?能说并且?以说:由于东方人需?对先天的劣势(较之西方国家,我们在社会公正和自然资?的环节上相对?得薄弱)以?与此相关的无奈现实,因而“命???二字?旧会在较长时间内明显的?或潜移默化的作用于至少是我上???到的那个人群中——这对社会稳定?说是有积??义的,但这样一?就探究?得人性了。

对于以上命题,西方人想必是较难?解的。但无论如何,《王的男人》之?与奥斯?,其积??义在于:让这个世界的?一边更多得看到真实的我们以?我们的梦境。
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janeyang
Clown


Joined: 01 Jan 2007
Posts: 2

58 chohwa

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Indeed , about "Fate"

When I first watch this movie , I didn't quite get its meaning and emotion.
When I read those reviews in depth , I gradually understand some meaning.
I need to think more , anyway.

This is a review in some depth anyhow.
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nslan
Advisor


Joined: 02 Dec 2006
Posts: 325
Location: Spore...on an island far far away
4091 chohwa

PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

janeyang wrote:
Indeed , about "Fate"

When I first watch this movie , I didn't quite get its meaning and emotion.
When I read those reviews in depth , I gradually understand some meaning.
I need to think more , anyway.

This is a review in some depth anyhow.


Hi Janeyang!

Thanks for sharing your feedback. There are actually many good reviews on this movie... unfortunately at this stage, these are in Korean, Chinese and Japanese, etc. We are currently in the progress of compiling these in their respective language and hopefully will be able to share them through their original source and if possible their English translation with our viewers and fans...soon.

Keep a look out on our website as well as our forum.
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