Saturday, May 05, 2018

“Masquerade” (2012 Korean historical movie) synopsis with no spoilers

(Jump to Lessons in photography from “Masquerade”)

“Masquerade” is a blockbuster and an award-winning, 2012 Korean historical movie. With 12.3 million tickets sold, this historical movie is currently the ninth highest-grossing movie in Korean film history. Also, it swept the 49th Grand Bell Awards, winning in 15 categories, including Best Film, Director, Screenplay and Actor. (Wikipedia)

The cast is led by Lee Byung-hun (“Mr. Sunshine”) in dual role as King Gwanghae and Ha-sun, Ryu Seung-ryong as Chief Secretary, and Han Hyo-joo (“Dong Yi”) as Queen Consort.

Historical backgrounder (from Wikipedia)

Historically, Gwanghae, the 15th Joseon king from 1608-1623, attempted diplomacy through neutrality as China’s Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) set their sights on the country. He also tried his hand at other reforms and reconstruction to try to make the nation prosperous, including an emphasis on the restoration of documents, but met with opposition and was later deposed and exiled to Jeju Island.

The premise behind the film is an interpretation of the missing 15 days in the “Seungjeongwon ilgi” or Journal of the Royal Secretariat during Gwanghae’s reign designated by his 1616 journal entry, “One must not record that which he wishes to hide.”

How I wrote this synopsis with no spoilers

I divided the movie into six parts, indicating the start and end of each part in minute marks. For each part, I narrated the main actions without going into the twists and turns. Part 6 is the movie’s finale (the last 32 minutes), so you can just read Parts 1 to 3, for example, to know what the movie is all about and then go watch the movie. (Part 3 is the midway point of the movie.)

Part 1 (from start up to 19:23 mark)

When the silver spoon that’s used in detecting poison in his food turns black, King Gwanghae urges his Chief Secretary to hurry up in finding someone who looks exactly like him — that person will stay in the palace at night so that he can stay elsewhere in safety.

The ministers and the scholars continue to pressure King Gwanghae into convicting and executing Yu Jeong-heo (the Queen’s brother) for treason.

Together with Captain Do (King Gwanghae’s bodyguard), the Chief Secretary’s aide finally finds in a gisaeng house someone named Ha-sun who looks like the king.

After giving Ha-sun instructions on how to act before King Gwanghae, the Chief Secretary takes him to the palace.

Part 2 (from 19:24 mark up to 45:00)

Ha-sun is arrested and flogged, but the corrupt magistrate offers him a way out. Meanwhile, the Chief Secretary continues to investigate why the silver spoon turned black.

Summoned by the Head Eunuch, the Chief Secretary finds King Gwanghae unconscious and being attended to by the Royal Physician. Finding out that King Gwanghae has been poisoned, he orders that King Gwanghae be secretly transferred to a remote temple. He also orders Captain Do to immediately bring Ha-sun to the palace.

The Chief Secretary offers Ha-sun 40 silver coins in exchange for acting like King Gwanghae for the next several days. After some hesitation, Ha-sun agrees; the Chief Secretary and the Head Eunuch begin teaching him about life in the palace, the King’s daily routines, and how to deal with the ministers, especially with Park Chung-seo, the Minister of Interior. The Chief Secretary also warns him to stay away from the Queen.

Realizing that King Gwanghae’s continued absence from the council meetings will arouse suspicion among the ministers, the Chief Secretary schedules a meeting for the issuance of a royal decree. After Ha-sun (“King Gwanghae”) ascends the throne, he unrolls the royal decree to read it before the ministers.

Part 3 (from 45:01 mark up to 1:02:32)

The ministers oppose the royal decree that imposes the national identification system, the uniform land tax law, and the exoneration of Yu Jeong-heo.

Ha-sun befriends Sa-wol, the 15-year old food taster.

The Chief Secretary visits the temple where King Gwanghae is being treated. To his surprise, the Royal Physician tells him that it’s opium and not poison that has put the King’s life at risk. Later, he visits the place of Lady Ahn, the woman whom King Gwanghae has been secretly visiting.

When conflicts arise between him and the Chief Secretary, Ha-sun turns to the Head Eunuch for help. After learning more about the uniform land tax and how Sa-wol ended up in the palace, Ha-sun gives out orders to the ministers, without consulting the Chief Secretary.

As Ha-sun agonizes that night over the mistake that he made with Yu Jeong-heo’s case, the Queen forces her way into his bedroom.

Part 4 (from 1:02:33 mark up to 1:31:12)

Ha-sun promises to the Queen that he will do everything to spare the life of her brother Yu Jeong-heo.

When Captain Do becomes suspicious that Ha-sun is an impostor, the Head Eunuch hastily tells the Chief Secretary about it.

The ministers and scholars from the Western faction begin to directly petition the King to depose the Queen, who is the daughter of a Northerner.

As Ha-sun leaves the assembly hall, he sees the Queen as she watches the protesting scholars. Stepping on the backs of the prostrate scholars, he takes the Queen’s hand and runs away with her.

Part 5 (from 1:31:13 mark up to 1:39:16)

Minister Park Cheong-seo confirms from a court lady that someone has been masquerading as King Gwanghae. On the other hand, after she hears of the rumors about the masquerade, the Queen goes to the King’s bedroom to confirm the rumors for herself.

The Chief Secretary gives Ha-sun the remaining 20 silver coins as based on their agreement; he also asks Ha-sun to leave the palace immediately.

Lady Han orders Sa-wol to slip poison into Ha-sun’s food.

Part 6 (from 1:39:17 mark to the end)

After the Chief Secretary confirms to her that Ha-sun’s masquerade was allowed by King Gwanghae, the Queen meets Ha-sun late at night on the bridge. After Ha-sun says goodbye to her, he gives back to her the “eunjangdo” (silver knife).

At the council meeting, Ha-sun is outraged as the ministers approve the tributes for the Ming Emperor, including the sending of 20,000 Joseon soldiers to fight against the Jin.

Sa-wol protects Ha-sun by taking the poison herself. When Lady Han confesses the name of the government official who gave her the poison, Ha-sun orders Captain Do to arrest the official. But Minister Park Cheong-seo and his allies launch their rebellion that night.

Ha-sun refuses to leave the palace before he has avenged Sa-wol’s death. The Chief Secretary orders his aide to get, by any means, the records of the Royal Secretariat for the last fourteen days. He then rushes to the temple and confesses to King Gwanghae everything that he has done with Ha-sun.

After putting down the revolt, King Gwanghae sends some soldiers to track down Ha-sun, who’s on his way to a port to escape. His escort, Captain Do, faces off against the soldiers, and Ha-sun escapes.

As the boat sets sail, Ha-sun sees the Chief Secretary on the port. To his surprise, the Chief Secretary bows to him.

Lessons in photography from “Masquerade”

Background blur, line of direction,
bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Background blur, line of direction,
bokeh (aesthetic quality of blurred areas of a photograph)
Background blur, compressed perspective
Linear perspective,
Linear perspective, background blur
Background blur, compressed perspective
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Shallow depth of field, selective or differential focusing
Foreground blur, selective or differential focusing
Golden hour
High angle point of view
Line of direction, background blur
Linear perspective, background blur
Linear perspective, establishing shot
Low angle point of view (power shot)
Natural frame, selective or differential focusing
Quality and direction of light, background blur
Reflection, selective or differential focusing
Shallow depth of field, selective or differential focusing
Sidelighting, partial frame
Sidelighting, partial frame

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