Il Mare Review
Il Mare is something of a find for me - I happened on it while browsing through various Hong Kong based on-line stores and needed another disc to complete my order. Choosing the first one to grab my attention, I paid my money, received my discs and left Il Mare languishing on my shelf unwatched. Until now.
A young man, Han Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-Jae), lives in a house by the sea in 1998, less than two years later (just before the start of the new millennium, the same house has a new occupant - a beautiful young woman, Kim Eun-ju (Jun Ji-hyun). They lead to seemingly separate lives at separate times. The house is called Il Mare.
After moving out, Kim Eun-ju sends a Christmas greeting to whomever the new occupants of the house are - however no one has actually moved in and the card mysteriously appears in the same mailbox two years in the past. Initially assuming it's a mistake Han Sung-hyun sends a reply saying as much. Over time, Han and Kim begin exchanging more letters and their relationship grows into one of love - albeit a love where they appear never destined to actually meet.
Il Mare is a wonderfully well crafted film from South Korea, it never tries to explain what is happening, but instead concentrates on the blossoming romance between two people who have never laid eyes on each other. It becomes all the more emotional when we discover that they may never get the chance to meet each other in person.
Both Lee Jung-Jae and Jun Ji-hyun are convincing in their roles - they share our disbelief at the beginning of the film but Jun's performance in particular is very good. The Korean scenery is beautiful and is captured well on film and the direction by Hyun-seung Lee keeps the film moving on at a fair pace even though it is by its nature, Il Mare is a very slow love story.
Il Mare is a beautiful film, and it's certainly the sort of film I would usually never give a second glance. It's by no means perfect and chooses to dwell a little on insignificant aspects but these are few and far between.
This is a review of the Region 3 DVD. It's presented in a snapper case and should be available from most Hong Kong based Region 3 retailers for well under £10.
The picture is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is non-anamorphic. There is some print damage in the way of flecks and scratches, but these don't really distract overall. Given the cinematography and scenery, I feel that the picture could have really benefited from a nice anamorphic transfer but for the price this will suffice. The actual transfer is reasonable - although by no stretch of the imagination outstanding. There are compression artefacts noticeable throughout and while for the most part the colour is vibrant, there are times when things seem a little muted. All in all though I've seen worse and I've seen better.
We have two soundtracks, both Korean, one being Dolby Digital, the other DTS. However, there's not a lot to choose between them. The DTS soundtrack definitely has a fuller sound in terms of ambience and atmospherics, but with a film such as this it's hardly important. The only times I noticed the surrounds being put to any sort of use was when vehicles were on the screen. The scenes at the train station probably sounded the best. There are no major issues with either soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the subtitles were a little troublesome. They appear just within the 1.85:1 frame, but they are occasionally cut off at the bottom. The main problem is that on a number of occasions the subtitles cut off before the end of the sentence - we frequently end up only seeing half words, or worse, half sentences and this does make it a little difficult to understand exactly what's being said. It doesn't stop you knowing what's going on - it's just a little irritating.
There are a selection of trailers and TV spots to kick off. None of these are subtitled and they all feature pretty poor picture quality. That said, visually they do capture the essence of the film and don't reveal too much. In a similar respect, the 'MTV' section is in fact a music video made up of clips from the film.
The photo gallery slowly steps between stills from the film. They pictures them selves aren't any different to those that you'd get by pressing the pause button on your remote - although they are very well chosen.
The filmographies are presented in both Chinese and English and feature the two stars, Lee Jung-Jae and Jun Ji-hyun, along with the director, Hyun-seung Lee. They don't go into any great depth, but then again these things rarely do.
The menus are animated and accompanied by music from the film.
Il Mare is a beautiful film that is likely to remain an undiscovered gem for most people. It certainly gets my recommendation, but fans of action films take note, this probably isn't for you, the same goes for science fiction fans who think the plot device sounds like something out of Star Trek.
It's doubtful that we'll see a DVD release in the UK, US or Australia any time soon so if you would like to check the film out this Region 3 release may be your only option. This is not a DVD that will show off your collection, but at the same time it is perfectly fine for the film and the lack of an anamorphic transfer, while disappointing, isn't a huge problem.