South Korea (2012). Dir: Leesong Hee-il, Scr: Leesong Hee-il
White Night is a haunting piece about a difficult personal journey to find some kind of resolution. It’s also a measured, painterly study of isolation and the effect on someone’s ability to form relationships when, after being marginalized to begin with, they are literally broken. We see how desire struggles to be free in a society with an atavistic attitude to homosexuality.
Kang Wongkyu is a flight attendant for the “german airline” who arrives back in Seoul for the first time in two years. He meets another man, who limps with him to a café, where they talk. But it’s a dialogue de sourds. They talk – “a future world imagined” is mentioned – but don’t communicate. The friend leaves, his cigarette burning into the night, unfinished. Wongkyu goes to his hotel where, in a beautiful scene, lost in thought, his eyes fill with tears. We then see him outside, it’s winter – cold and snow is coming, at the start of an internet-arranged tryst with Tae-joon,“pedometer”, a light-hearted motorcycle courier.
Despite two failed attempts at physical connection which end in passing anger and tension, they stay together into the night and the background to Wongkyu’s mysterious, troubled detachment emerges. He and his limping ex-lover were the victims of a violent homophobic attack outside a gay bar. Wongkyu has returned to Seoul set on revenge after hearing his attacker has been released from jail after serving less than two years.
It’s a poetic story of someone pushed far away by and from other people, “I don’t have stuff like a name….I’m bugged by the police, outed by reporters, my dad still hangs up on me” and the genuine attempts by another to bring him back, to show him that he is not the only one who is marginalized and rejected. Tae-joon wants to help, to protect, to make an emotional connection – even sex becomes act of compassion, an attempt to fill the emptiness. But it’s also intensely dramatic, dark but not without humour, shot by a camera that loves Seoul at night. The city’s lights and backstreets are a backdrop for both dreams and loneliness. And the snow falls.
Also by Leesong Hee-il:
No Regret (2007)
ps: This film was brought to our attention by that lovingly-put together WordPress blog Otherwhere, who deserve thanks for more than just this.