One Fine Spring Day Review
Sound-engineer, Sang-woo and a radio presenter, Eun-su meet-up on a recording assignment, recording the sounds of nature (the sound of wind through a bamboo forest, a running stream, snow falling at a temple) for a radio show that Eun-su presents. They fall in love, but very soon their personal weaknesses and temperaments begin to cause friction and the relationship runs into difficulties. Their one fine spring day doesn’t last very long – feelings, emotions and circumstances change and the break-up is very painful.
Reminiscent of Japanese director Ozu’s gently paced films, One Fine Spring Day is a mundane story of almost commonplace ordinariness that will bore some people senseless. The reasons for the break-up of the central relationship are vague and mostly unspoken, there are no melodramatic scenes or accusations, yet this is often the way of such relationships - there are so many little cracks that the whole can no longer bear the strain and despite the best efforts of one of the partners, there is absolutely nothing they can do to prevent it all falling apart. Anyone who has ever been in this kind of situation will recognise the painful familiarity of it all.
In a sub-story, Sang-woo’s grandmother is struggling with old age and denial over an affair her now dead husband once had with another woman. This supports the main story, underlying the fragility of human emotions and relationships and the struggle to overcome memories of the past and accept change.
On the surface the film appears ordinary and not much happens over the nearly 2 hour running time, but this is because the relationship is not at all romanticised. I think One Fine Spring Day is therefore a major leap from the director of Christmas in August, where the drama and emotional impact of the film relied at least in part on more traditional melodramatic external factors (Jeong-Won's illness). Here the characters' motivations are much more personal and internalised and as such it has a greater sense of authenticity, with genuine carefully defined characters with real personalities and vulnerabilities. Thoughts and feelings are often expressed in snatches of songs and in a strikingly beautiful musical score that says more than the words of the characters themselves.
The picture quality on this Hong Kong release is very good indeed. There are almost no marks on the print and few noticeable digital artefacts. Colours are fine and true and the picture is clear, although the NTSC picture loses some definition and depth of colour when the 1.85:1 letterbox transfer is zoomed for widescreen televisions. Even so, the quality is exceptionally good, coping well with night scenes with strong blacks and bright colours.
As one of the principal characters is a sound-engineer and many of the scenes are simple silent scenes of recordings of the sounds of nature, you would expect the sound to be good on the DVD, and it is. The 5.1 mix is very subtle and well-suited to the film, making effective use of the surrounds for the atmospheric sounds and musical score that are so important to conveying the emotional punch of the film.
There are not many extras on the DVD. The menus however are bilingual in Chinese and English and are easy to get around. A 3 minute trailer without English subtitles gives a good impression of the film without giving anything away. The English subtitles on the film itself are optional and are clear, well-sized and grammatically correct, which is not always the case with Hong Kong DVD releases. There is scene-access to the 8 chapters in the film, which is not a great deal, but this is not the kind of film that you would be dipping in and out of. A Stars’ File provides useful information about the two young lead actors who have also appeared in several recent successful Korean films. There is an excellent text interview with the director, Hur Jin-ho along with his brief filmography – One Fine Spring Day is his second film after his acclaimed debut, Christmas In August. Any more extras than this would really be superfluous.
With an emotional musical score, good performances, some beautiful scenes and a heart-breakingly gorgeous ending, there is much to recommend in One Fine Spring Day, but it is not a film for those who expect even a little excitement on the screen. Having more in common with European arthouse than traditional Korean melodrama, the film has attracted praise at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, so one can hope we may see more films like this making their way from Korea in the future.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 18:03:24