No. 5 – The Fortress <남한산성>
Without a doubt, The Fortress was the most visually stunning Korean film of 2017. Director Hwang Dong-Hyuk (Silenced) and cinematographer Kim Jee-yong have combined their talents to beautifully capture the 1636 siege of Joseon by the Qing invaders in breathtaking fashion. Whether it’s the commoners as they struggle to survive during the harsh winter, or ministers as they beseech the King for a decision, every scene is meticulously composed with precision for maximum effect. A stunningly told historical tale of war.
No. 4 – Microhabitat <소공녀>
Director Jeon Go-woon’s debut film Microhabitat was a truly refreshing independent film to emerge at the Busan Film Festival this year. Those living in Korea will have heard of the ‘give up’ generation, in which citizens have abandoned dreams of marriage, children, et al. to live comfortably. While this is typically aimed at youngsters, director Jeon explores this through 30-something Miso as she visits her friends while attempting to organise her life. The disillusionment conveyed through the story is insightful, humorous and poignant, and is a real delight.
No. 3 – Okja <옥자>
Director Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder) turned to Netflix to fund his latest work Okja, about a youngster named Mija who sets off to rescue her ‘super pig’ best friend after she is kidnapped by an organisation. It’s a charming tale reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli adventure yet with the director’s trademark biting satire of corporate corruption, featuring incredibly impressive CGI throughout. Despite the all star cast it’s actually newcomer An Seo-hyun that steals the show as Mija, giving the film its heart and soul as she takes on capitalist evil-doers in her quest to save Okja.
No. 2 – 1987: When the Day Comes <1987>
Depicting the murder of student activist Park Jong-cheol, the government cover-up, and the resulting demand for democratisation as millions protested throughout the country, are not simple matters to be presented on the big screen – but then, 1987 is an especially powerful film. Director Hwang-Dong-hyuk (Save the Green Planet) has crafted a riveting film, one that simultaneously manages to balance the large all-star cast while also building tension through the deadly cat-and-mouse struggle to control the narrative. Essential viewing for those interested in recent Korean history.
No. 1 – A Taxi Driver <택시 운전사>
Director Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver takes the top spot for 2017. Based on real events, the film follows a German reporter and a Seoul cabbie as they try to capture evidence of the 1980 Gwangju Massacre (or Uprising, depending on who you speak to) and share it with the world. Song Kang-ho always excels at playing the endearing everyman, yet in A Taxi Driver this proves even more effective as his naivety comes undone through witnessing the atrocities committed within the city. Compelling, provocative, and emotionally wrought, A Taxi Driver is our film of the year.
Top 10 Films of 2017 – No. 10~6