Friday, March 20, 2020

“Assassination” 2015 Korean historical movie, synopsis (no spoilers)

(Click the picture above to view or download a much bigger copy.)

From Wikipedia: “Assassination” is a 2015 South Korean espionage action film co-written and directed by Choi Dong-hoon and starring Korean superstar Jun Ji-hyun (“Gianna Jun”) in a dual role.

As of August 26, 2015, it has grossed a total of US$77 million from 11.79 million admissions, making it the highest-grossing Korean film of 2015 as well as the eighth-all-time-highest-grossing film in Korean cinema history.

This movie won numerous awards: 36th Blue Dragon Film Awards (Best Film, Best Actress, Best Costume Design); 21st Chunsa Film Art Awards (Best Director); 11th Max Movie Awards (Best Actress); and the 35th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards (Best Cinematography, Art Direction).

With a budget of US $16 million, “Assassination” filmed in both Shanghai and Seoul for five months. A special set of 13,500 square meters was created in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, to recreate the Seosomun Street in Gyeongseong. The rest of the filming took place at the Shanghai set in Chedun, which is 27 times the size of the Hapcheon set in South Gyeongsang Province.

How I made this synopsis spoiler-free

I divided the movie into seven parts; Part 5 is the halfway point of the movie, with Part 6 and Part 7 comprising the last 45 minutes of the movie. So, you can just read Part 1 to Part 4 to know what the movie is all about. (In Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7, I still did not include all the twists and turns of the plot, so they are also spoiler-free.)

Part 1 (from start to 7:05)

1911 ...

Kang In Gook is a Korean businessman who wants to enrich himself by collaborating with the Japanese colonial government. During an assassination attempt by a freedom fighter named Jin Seok Yeom, he saves the life of the colonial governor.

Kang In Gook’s wife has been secretly helping the freedom fighters; as a cover for Jin Seok Yeom’s escape, she leaves their home, bringing along her twin baby daughters. But Kang In Gook sends his men after his wife and orders them to bring back his twins.

Part 2 (from 7:06 to 19:35)

1933 ...

The Korean Provisional Government orders Jin Seok Yeom to bring to Shanghai a trio of misfits — Ahn Ok Yun (a sniper), Hwang Deoksam (explosives expert), and Chu Sang-ok (firearms expert aka “Big Gun”) — who are all locked up in Manchuria. In Shanghai, one of the leaders named Kim Won Bang orders the trio to go to Gyeongseong (modern-day Seoul) and assassinate Kang In Gook and General Mamoru Kawaguchi of the Japanese colonial forces.

Part 3 (from 19:36 to 1:02:33)

Ok Yun and her comrades arrive in Gyeongseong where they’re given shelter by a night club owner. But unknown to them, Jin Seok Yeom has hired a notorious hit man known as “Hawaii Pistol” to kill them.

With his identity as a traitor now revealed, Jin Seok Yeom decides to go to Gyeongseong. Meanwhile, on their way to Gyeongseong, Hawaii Pistol and his sidekick meet Captain Kawaguchi — the son of General Mamoru Kawaguchi and the fiancĂ© of Kang In Gook’s daughter, Mitsuko.

Ok Yun decides to ambush Kang In Gook and General Mamoru Kawaguchi on a gasoline station. But while preparing for their assassination attempt, Chu Sang-ok and Hwang Deoksam are spotted by Hawaii Pistol and his sidekick.

Part 4 (from 1:02:34 to 1:11:16)

Despite Chu Sang-ok’s disappearance, Ok Yun decides to continue with their plans.

Upon reaching Gyeongseong, Jin Seok Yeom immediately warns General Mamoru Kawaguchi about the threat to his life; Kang In Gook thus suggests to Captain Kawaguchi a change in their travel plans.

During the shootout with the Japanese soldiers, Ok Yun comes face to face with her twin sister Mitsuko.

Part 5 (from 1:11:17 to 1:27:28)

Ok Yun and Hawaii Pistol escape from the Japanese soldiers escorting them to the police headquarters. Later, after having Ok Yun treated by a doctor, Hawaii Pistol and his sidekick leave her apartment. On the street, however, as they’re being accosted by Japanese soldiers, they meet Captain Kawaguchi again.

Mitsuko realizes that the woman she saw during the shootout is none other than her twin sister. She finds Ok Yun’s apartment and pleads with her to stop working for the freedom fighters and to live with her and their father.

As Mitsuko and Ok Yun are talking, however, their father Kang In Gook arrives, together with Jin Seok Yeom and some Japanese soldiers.

Part 6 (from 1:27:29 to 1:47:03)

Ok Yun assumes Mitsuko’s identity and plans to kill Kang In Gook and General Kawaguchi during the wedding.

Chu Sang-ok returns to the nightclub and asks the owner to get him some guns and explosives. Later, he infiltrates the wedding’s venue.

During the wedding, after recognizing Hawaii Pistol, Jin Seok Yeom orders him arrested and quietly brought out of the venue.

Ok Yun has hidden a gun in her bouquet, and as the officiating minister calls for the parents of the bride and groom, she aims her gun at Kang In Gook and General Mamoru Kawaguchi.

Part 7 (from 1:47:04 to the end)

Hawaii Pistol and his sidekick take Ok Yun (aka Mitsuko) and Captain Kawaguchi into the nightclub. But Jin Seok Yeom and the Japanese soldiers surround the nightclub.

Hawaii Pistol tells Ok Yun to continue pretending to be Mitsuko so that she can escape. Later, he and his sidekick escape through the sewers.

1949 ...

Jin Seok Yeom stands trial for being a Japanese collaborator. After the trial, as he goes through the public market, he sees Mitsuko and follows her into an isolated street.

Lessons in photography from “Assassination”

Shooting against the light (contra luz, contre jour)
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Foreground and background blur
Low angle shot, Rule of Odds
Line of direction, Rule of Odds
Out of focus foreground element as partial frame
Establishing shot
High angle shot
Lead room, nose room, looking space
Natural frames
Low angle shot
Natural frames, local frames
Linear perspective
High angle shot
Low angle shot, balance and symmetry

Thursday, March 19, 2020

“Signal” synopsis by episode, Eps. 1-16 (no spoilers)

Jump to synopsis of Episode 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16 (Finale); How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers: Historical backgrounders and other information; Lessons in photography from “Signal”

From Wikipedia: “Signal” is a 2016 South Korean police procedural television series starring Lee Je-hoon, Kim Hye-soo, and Cho Jin-woong. It premiered on tvN on January 22, 2016. The series was inspired by real-life criminal incidents in Korea, including the Hwaseong serial murders.

The series received widespread acclaim from audience and critics alike for its story and performances. Also, it is the tenth highest-rated Korean drama in cable television history with a peak audience viewership of 12.54%.

It received praise for its solid acting, tightly-constructed plot and detailed and sophisticated direction; and enjoyed success internationally in China and Japan.

The drama went on to win several awards from different award-giving bodies: Best Drama, Best Screenplay for Kim Eun-hee, and Best Actress for Kim Hye-soo at the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards; Best Actress award for Kim and the Daesang (Grand Prize for Television) for Cho Jin-woong at the tvN10 Awards; and Daesang for Cho Jin-woong at the 1st Asia Artist Awards.

How I wrote these episode summaries with no spoilers

1. I assumed that you will be reading these summaries and watching the videos chronologically.

2. I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.

3. At the beginning of each summary starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table a recap of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.

4. I followed this structure all throughout, except for Ep. 16 (Finale) where I included spoilers. Reason - most people want to know if the drama has a good ending or a sad ending before they invest the time in watching it.

Episode 1

July 29, 2000 ... a shy grade school student named Park Hae-young sees someone sheltering his schoolmate Yoon-jung from the rain and guiding her away from school. Later on, Yoon-jung is found murdered, but the suspect — a medical student named Seo — disappears.

Days later, based on a note, Detective Lee Jae-han goes late at night to an abandoned psychiatric hospital; in a waste disposal bin, he finds the body of the suspect. At 11:23 PM, he uses his walkie-talkie to report finding the body.

But the person who answers his call is Park Hae-young, who’s now a young police officer, a lieutenant working as a criminal profiler! It’s July 27, 2015, three days before the statute of limitations expires and when Yoon-jung’s killer can no longer be prosecuted for the crime.

Hae-young has just left the police precinct where he had a run-in with Detective Cha Soo-hyun and her subordinate Detective Kim. He finds a walkie-talkie in a parked truck, and as Jae-han reports that the suspect’s death was made to look like a suicide, Hae-young demands to know who he is talking to.

Hae-young finds out the walkie-talkie doesn’t even have batteries. Despite thinking that he’s going crazy, he goes to the abandoned psychiatric hospital and finds some skeletal remains. The next day, the forensics team searches the site, and Detective Soo-hyun demands that he tell her how he found the skeletal remains.

Despite Detective Soo-hyun’s protest, Section Chief Ahn takes the case records and then reports everything to Director Kim. Later on, in the frenzied presence of news reporters, Director Kim talks to Yoon-jung’s mother and tells her that they have found the suspect’s body and that he committed suicide. But Hae-young stuns everyone by shouting that the suspect did not commit suicide but was killed by the real kidnapper. As Director Kim’s men try to drag him away from the reporters, Hae-young faces the TV cameras and shouts that he’s got the evidence against the real kidnapper.

Episode 2

Ep. 1 recap:

In her early years as a police officer, Soo-hyun worked under Detective Jae-han.

Nurse Yoon misleads the police into thinking that her fellow nurse who worked in the psychiatric hospital is the real kidnapper. As Hae-young and Detective Soo-hyun find out the truth and as the statute of limitations is about to run out, they chase Nurse Yoon on the streets under the pouring rain.
As the forensics team checks the DNA evidence, Soo-hyun and Hae-young pressure Nurse Yoon to confess to kidnapping and killing Yoon-jung and setting up her boyfriend. But Nurse Yoon remains calmly defiant, and the statute of limitations runs out.

Because of the public outcry, the statute of limitations is extended for various crimes, and Director Kim is pressured into setting up a cold case squad in Seoul. Heading the squad is Soo-hyun, with Hae-young, Detective Kim, and forensic expert Heon-ki as her men.

August 3, 2000 ... Jae-han calls Hae-young again on the walkie-talkie. Bloodied and desperate, Jae-han tells him that it may be his last call. But he says that they will get in touch again and that Hae-young would have to persuade the young police officer Jae-han of 1989. After Jae-han says, “The past can be changed. Don’t ever give up,” a confused Hae-young hears a gunshot.

The cold case squad is assigned to work on the infamous Gyeonggi Nambu serial murders that happened in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Hae-young begins digging into the files of all police officers named Lee Jae-han.

11:23 PM ... as Hae-young’s walkie-talkie lights up, he excitedly asks why Jae-han hasn’t called him up earlier. But the Jae-han who answers is a newbie police officer from 1989, who, along with dozens of other officers, is searching for the 7th victim of the Gyeonggi Nambu serial murderer. Hae-young, not realizing the time difference, chides Jae-han by saying where the bodies of the 7th and 8th victims can be found.

November 1989 ... The newbie police officer Jae-han inquires at the police station about an officer named Park Hae-young and whether the 8th victim of the serial killer has been found.

Episode 3

Ep. 2 recap:

Soo-hyun arrests Nurse Yoon for the murder of her boyfriend Seo.

In 1989, the serial killer attacks a woman named Lee Mi-sun on an isolated part of the railroad tracks. Jae-han finds her bound and gagged but still alive.

In 2015, Hae-young becomes confused with the changes in the crime scene pictures and his whiteboard notes about the serial murders.
1998 ...

Jae-han captures the suspect who attacked Lee Mi-sun before he could board a bus. At 11:23 PM, he calls Hae-young and informs him that he captured the serial killer. But Hae-young thinks that he’s being pranked by someone claiming to be from 1989; he also warns Jae-han that if he’s truly from the past, the suspect whom he captured will die that night.

Worried about Hae-young’s claim about the serial killer, Jae-han musters up his courage and talks to his crush, an office employee named Kim Won-kyung; he gives her a taser to protect herself from any attacker.

While following up on the serial killer’s attack on Lee Mi-sun, Jae-han questions the bus driver and another employee of the bus company. But the driver says that no one boarded his bus at the stop where Jae-han captured his suspect.

2015 ... Soo-hyun continues to investigate the attack on Lee Mi-sun, but she’s rebuffed by Lee Mi-sun’s husband. Later, after noticing a pattern in the movements of the victims, she tells her squad that the bus plying a certain route holds the key to the serial murders. Hae-young, meanwhile, notices that the serial killer’s pattern changed.

Soo-hyun and Dae-young decide to visit the female bus employee who was questioned by Jae-han back in 1989. They knock on the door, but no one answers. When Soo-hyun peers into a window, however, she sees a woman on the floor, with her feet bound with ropes.

Episode 4

Ep. 3 recap:

Section Chief Ahn orders Soo-hyun and her squad to turn over the murder investigation of the bus company employee to the local police station.

In anger and guilt over the employee’s murder, Hae-young calls up Jae-han on the walkie-talkie and tells him to do something to help prevent the death of another woman. But Jae-han has been locked in jail for his continued railing about mysterious transmissions on a walkie-talkie from a non-existent police officer. He goes berserk when he hears Hae-young say that the next victim is someone named Kim Won-kyung.
1989 ... Jae-han escapes from the police station and begins frantically searching for Kim Won-kyung.

2015 ... Based on the black box videos and the fingerprints, Soo-hyun, Detective Kim, and their forensic expert believe that the bus driver Lee Chun-goo killed his former co-employee and that he could possibly be the serial killer. But Hae-young says that it’s not possible, and he goes to the bus terminal to interview the old-time drivers.

Lee Chun-goo surrenders to the police and confesses that he killed his former co-employee and that he is the Gyeonggi Nambu serial killer. Later on, during another transmission on the walkie-talkie, Hae-young tells Jae-han that Lee Chun-goo, the bus driver, confessed to being the serial killer. Enraged, Jae-han barges into Lee Chun-goo’s house; he finds Lee Chun-goo’s son and begins beating him up.

Because of Lee Chun-goo’s confession, Section Chief Ahn closes down the cold case investigation. Director Kim also arranges a press conference to announce that the Gyeonggi Nambu serial killings have finally been solved after 26 years.

But Soo-hyun and Hae-young refuse to give up; they investigate the former bus company employee’s credit card and phone records; they also contact one of her relatives.

Episode 5

Ep. 4 recap:

Jae-han finds Kim Won-kyung dead, bound and gagged on a dark street.

Through the taser that Jae-han gave to Kim Won-kyung, Soo-hyun finds DNA evidence confirming that the serial killer is Lee Jin-hyung, the bus driver’s son.
As Soo-hyun continues to regularly visit the National Forensics Service building, she remembers the days back in 1995 when she was working with Jae-han as a new member of the Violent Crimes Unit.

Meanwhile, as Hae-young investigates what happened to Jae-han, he finds out from the Office of Internal Affairs that he disappeared in 2000, with a bundle of money found in his desk drawer. He also finds out that Jae-han had a scar on his right shoulder because of a metal pin. But his investigation makes Section Chief Ahn and Director Kim suspicious about his connection to Jae-han; Section Chief Ahn also sees on the CCTV footage how Hae-young found the walkie-talkie.

September 1995 ... Jae-han and other police officers are ordered to catch the burglar who has broken into the houses of several wealthy families. One of the suspects that Jae-han questions is an ex-convict named Oh Kyung-tae. But the ex-convict says that he has reformed his ways, and his daughter Eun-ji says that the burglar is probably an amateur.

2015 ... Reaching home after his visit to Kim Won-kyung’s mother, Hae-young gets another call from Jae-han, who wants to know everything about the burglaries. But Hae-young says that the case files are missing; when Jae-han insists that he help him, he suggests that the burglar might have cased the houses and thus left some traces of his identity.

1995 ... Jae-han arrests the ex-convict Oh Kyung-tae for the burglaries. On their way to the police station, however, they see Eun-ji’s bus plunge as the bridge collapses.

2015 ... a female college professor (the daughter of a CEO) is kidnapped, but the police find the kidnapper’s fingerprint on a bathroom mirror, and his face is recorded on the CCTV footage. Director Kim thus orders a massive manhunt for the kidnapper and the victim.

Episode 6

Ep. 5 recap:

Oh Kyung-tae’s daughter died in a fiery explosion after the bridge collapsed; he thus blames Jae-han for her death.

2015 ... Several days after his release from prison, Oh Kyung-tae kidnaps the college professor.

Jae-han tells Hae-young that their transmissions should have never taken place because they have ruined people’s lives.
1995 ... Based on the evidence and despite Eun-ji’s pleas that her father is innocent, Jae-han arrests Oh Kyung-tae. As Jae-han takes Oh Kyung-tae to the police station, Eun-ji rides on a bus to go home. In the bus with her are the kidnapping victim Shin Yeo-jin and her father.

After the bus plunges into the collapsed bridge, the paramedics, Jae-han, and Yeo-jin’s father try to rescue those trapped in the bus.

2015 ... Yeo-jin manages to contact her father through her cellphone, and Section Chief Ahn immediately sends his men to rescue her. But Soo-hyun refuses to believe that Oh Kyung-tae could be so sloppy, and Hae-young tells her (what Jae-han said) about Oh Kyung-tae having been framed.

Hae-young suddenly has an insight that Oh Kyung-tae could be at the site of the collapsed bridge. While he arrests Oh Kyung-tae, Soo-hyun and Yeo-jin’s father approach a truck parked near the memorial site for the victims of the collapsed bridge. But unknown to them, Oh Kyung-tae has rigged the truck for an explosion.

Episode 7

Ep. 6 recap:

Soo-hyun dies in the explosion.

Detective Kim finds the missing files on the 1995 burglary cases; Hae-young learns that all the victims were schoolmates, and that it was the testimony of Han Se-kyu (the Chief Prosecutor’s son) that got Oh Kyung-tae convicted. In 1995, Jae-han also concluded that Han Se-kyu was the burglar.

During their next transmission, Hae-young asks Jae-han to find the items that were taken during the burglaries, thinking that these items can help convict Han Se-kyu.
Jae-han finds the stolen items in Han Se-kyu’s red car; he gets a warrant for Han Se-kyu’s arrest, and later on, Oh Kyung-tae is released. In 2015, Hae-young finds Soo-jin alive in her mother’s house.

1995 ... Jae-han finds out about the corrupt dealings between politicians and the “chaebols” over the Jinyang construction project; he also finds that among the missing items in the burglaries is a blue diamond necklace, which once belonged to Senator Jang Young-chul.

2015 ... During their next transmission, Jae-han asks Hae-young for information about the blue diamond necklace. But Hae-young says that their transmissions have almost led to the death of a police officer; he tears Jae-han’s profile and throws away the walkie-talkie.

Soo-hyun confronts Hae-young on why he’s digging up information about Jae-han. But they’re interrupted by a man who claims to have met Soo-hyun and Jae-han some 20 years ago. He asks Soo-hyun for help about his girlfriend Shin Da-hae, who committed suicide 20 years ago. To his shock, while he was in a cafe that he and Shin Da-hae used to visit, he sees someone who looks like Shin Da-hae.

1995 ... Jae-han picks up a lead on the blue diamond necklace, and he asks Soo-hyun to begin calling up the possible numbers of the woman who had the necklace appraised.

2015 ... As Soo-hyun’s team begins investigating Shin Da-hae’s case, Hae-young becomes convinced that she did not commit suicide but was murdered.

Episode 8

Ep. 7 recap:

After being released from jail, Oh Kyung-tae kills Yeo-jin’s father.

Shin Da-hae steals the blue diamond necklace from Han Se-kyu; in the necklace’s case, there is a floppy disk.

Based on the fingerprints on the book left at the cafe, Soo-hyun finds out that Shin Da-hae is still alive.
Through the former talent agency president, Hae-young finds out that Han Se-kyu sexually assaulted Shin Da-hae. Using the tape of the assault, Han Se-kyu’s friend pressure him to ask his father (the Chief Prosecutor) to stop the investigation.

Hae-young tells Soo-hyun that Han Se-kyu is responsible for everything -- the burglaries, the blue diamond necklace, and Shin Da-hae’s "suicide."

Soo-hyun’s investigation leads her to Shin Da-hae’s close friend Kim Ji-hee, who apparently came home to Korea a few weeks ago after 20 years of absence.

2015 ... Hae-young confronts Han Se-kyu in a nightclub about his crimes. But Han Se-kyu, now a lawyer, simply laughs off the accusation, saying that Hae-young does not have any evidence against him.

Soo-hyun finds the evidence of what really happened on the night when Shin Da-hae supposedly committed suicide. But during a private meeting, Section Chief Ahn warns Director Kim and Han Se-kyu about the evidence.

Episode 9

Ep. 8 recap:

Han Se-kyu killed Kim Ji-hee, thinking that she was Shin Da-hae, and made it appear that Shin Da-hae committed suicide.

Shin Da-hae took Kim Ji-hee’s identity and has lived in Germany for the last 20 years.

Hae-young tricks Han Se-kyu by not revealing everything that was on Shin Da-hae’s recording of what happened that night. Soo-hyun also brings Shin Da-hae into the interrogation room to confront Han Se-kyu.

1995 ... Director Kim (then the chief of the Violent Crimes Unit) gets hold of the floppy disk. He uses it to file a case against those responsible for the bridge’s collapse, but Jae-han confronts him and says that the floppy disk contained a lot more information.

Soo-hyun’s cold case squad celebrates having taken down Han Se-kyu. Later, Hae-young hears the static from the walkie-talkie; it’s Jae-han transmitting his final instructions to Hae-young back in August 3, 2000. Jae-han hides the walkie-talkie upon sensing someone come up to him. It’s Section Chief Kim, who shoots him pointblank.

Hae-young follows the static and finds the walkie-talkie in Section Chief Ahn’s drawer.
Section Chief Ahn warns Hae-young to stop digging into what happened to Jae-han. But Hae-young refuses to back down and takes the walkie-talkie with him.

Soo-hyun finds out that Hae-young’s elder brother Sun-woo was involved in the 1999 Inju gang rape case and that he killed himself after being released. Meanwhile, Hae-young finds a folded note in Jae-han’s old case notebook.

1997 ... a woman is lured into a dark street by a man looking for an injured puppy, brought home by her assailant, and then strangled to death, with a black plastic bag over her head.

During their next transmission, Hae-young asks Jae-han about the Hongwon-dong case (listed in Jae-han’s folded note), but Jae-han says that he hasn’t heard of it.

Jae-han finds that there’s a similar case of a woman who died with a plastic bag over head, but it’s being handled by a different precinct. He warns Director Kim (then head of the Violent Crimes Unit) that they could be dealing with another serial killer. But Director Kim brushes him off.

2015 ... A body of a woman wrapped in plastic and with a black plastic bag over her head is brought to the National Forensics Service. The crime scene photos trigger something in Soo-hyun’s memory, and she tells her squad that they might have a serial killer on the loose. Later on, Hae-young gets Section Chief Ahn’s permission to search the nearby mountain for possible victims.

1997 ... Soo-hyun retraces the steps of the two victims, hoping to find a clue or a pattern. Jae-han tells her to stop and go back to the precinct. But she continues walking on the streets alone, and later on, she hears a puppy barking in the dark.

Episode 10

Ep. 9 recap:

Soo-hyun is captured by the serial killer (the man working at the convenience store). She’s bound and wrapped in plastic, with a black plastic bag over her head. When the man leaves for a while, she stumbles to her feet, breaks down the door, and runs blindly out on to the street, where Jae-han finds her.
1997 ... Soo-hyun recounts to Jae-han and the other detectives what happened to her and how she escaped. Jae-han and the other detectives then begin scouring the area where Soo-hyun could have been taken.

2015 ... To avert the public outcry over the nine bodies that were found on the mountain, Director Kim assigns Soo-hyun’s cold case squad to find the serial killer. Based on Hae-young’s profile of the serial killer, Section Chief Ahn assigns teams to various locations. Soo-hyun, meanwhile, agrees to go through hypnosis to try and remember anything about the serial killer or the place where she was held.

During their next transmission, Jae-han finds out the the serial killer from 1997 is still active in 2015; he also finds out that Soo-hyun is now a squad leader of detectives. He compliments Soo-hyun for her great determination, but Hae-young tells him that he himself should tell it to Soo-hyun.

2014 ... a woman named Yoon Seung-yeon tries to befriend the convenience store clerk whom she doesn’t know is the serial killer.

1997 ... Soo-hyun becomes traumatized by her experience and thinks of quitting the police force.

2015 ... Hae-young finds Yoon Seung-yeon’s journal and deduces from it that the serial killer is working in a convenience store. Soo-hyun, meanwhile, retraces the steps that she took back in 1997 and suddenly realizes that, in her panic and confusion, she told Jae-han and the other detectives the wrong direction from where she escaped.

Episode 11

Ep. 10 recap:

The serial killer was abused horribly by his mother and becomes confused by Yoon Seung-yeon’s acts of affection for him.

Soo-hyun remembers the house where she was taken in 1997; without any backup, she enters the darkened house.
Hae-young finds out that the serial killer, Kim Jin-woo, plans to kill again. He rushes to Kim Jin-woo’s house where he finds Soo-hyun in shock. Later on, after searching the house, they rush to the mountain looking for Kim Jin-woo and his next victim.

1997 ... Jae-han arrests Kim Jin-woo, thus solving the Hongwongdo serial killing case. Later on, he does some small things in the precinct that makes Soo-hyun’s heart flutter.

1999 ... A scandal breaks out in Inju High School when someone posts on the school forum about a female student who was gang raped. After meeting Senator Jang Young-chul, Director Kim organizes a special task force to go after the suspects.

2015 ... After his confrontation with Director Kim, Section Chief Ahn resigns. He calls up Hae-young and warns him not to investigate the 1999 Inju gang rape case.

1999 .... Jae-han and Section Chief Ahn visit the victim Kang Hye-seung in the hospital. But they’re turned away by Kang Hye-seung’s father after he gives them the names of the 18 students involved; he also turns away Sun-woo (Hae-young’s brother) who’s hanging around in the corridor.

Jae-han finds out that seven of the suspects have parents connected to the Inju Cement Company.

Episode 12

Ep. 11 recap:

Kim Jin-woo killed Yoon Seung-yeon and his own mother. On the mountain, he tries to hang himself, but Sun-woo stops him.

After being arrested by Jae-han, Kim Jin-woo is sentenced to be confined in a psychiatric hospital.

Hae-young goes the hospital where he finds that Section Chief Ahn has been shot.
Before dying, Section Chief Ahn confesses to Hae-young that he killed Jae-han. Later on, Hae-young is accused of killing Section Chief Ahn.

Based on Section Chief Ahn’s cellphone records, the police officers question a gangster named Kim Sung-bum. The gangster reveals that Hae-young contacted him about the cases handled by Section Chief Ahn.

After his interrogation, Hae-young reveals to Soo-hyun that Jae-han was framed for extortion and that Section Chief Ahn killed Jae-han.

1999 ... Jae-han and Section Chief Ahn bring in for questioning a student named Lee Dong Jin, but Jae-han’s interrogation is interrupted by the student’s father. Director Kim then orders the Inju detective to look for a scapegoat on whom they can pin the rape case. Sun-woo is later on arrested.

2015 ... Hae-young recounts to Soo-hyun how he found out that his brother Sun-woo was framed.

1999 ... When Sun-woo maintains his innocence, Jae-han goes back to the crime scene to investigate. After talking with a witness, he confronts the Inju detective on why he framed Sun-woo. But to his surprise, Hye-seung declares that it was Sun-woo who led the students who raped her.

Episode 13

Ep. 12 recap:

Director Kim admits to Jae-han that he framed Sun-woo.

Soo-hyun and Dae-young finally find Jae-han’s skeletal remains.
1999 ... Jae-han resigns from the police force. Later on, after he disappears, a bundle of money is found in his desk drawer, and he’s accused of extortion.

2015 ... A funeral is held for Jae-han, with only his father, Soo-hyun, and Hae-young in attendance. Afterwards, Hae-young goes back to the pig skin restaurant that he frequented when he was young; he also remembers how he decided to enter the police academy.

Soo-hyun decides to investigate the 1999 Inju gang rape case, hoping that it will lead to whoever framed Jae-han and killed Section Chief Ahn. She and Hae-young begin looking for Hye-seung.

Episode 14

Ep 13 recap:

Hye-seung tells Soo-hyun and Hae-young that she betrayed Sun-woo, who was the only friend she had in school. She also reveals how Director Kim pressured her to implicate Sun-woo in the rape case.
Hye-seung reveals that the person responsible for framing Sun-woo is Jang Tae-jin, son of the president of Inju Cement Company and Senator Jang’s nephew. Despite Hae-young’s pleas, however, she refuses to testify.

2000 ... Jae-han threatens Director Kim that he will bring him and Jang Tae-jin down. But Director Kim threatens him back.

2015 ... At 11:23 PM, the walkie-talkie lights up, but to Hae-young’s surprise, it’s Soo-hyun who answers. Later, as he rushes out of his house to confront a witness, Soo-hyun finds the walkie-talkie and recognises it as Jae-han’s walkie-talkie.

2000 ... After he’s released from prison Sun-woo goes to see Dong-min and asks him about Hye-seung’s red scarf. Later, he contacts Jae-han to turn over the scarf, but Jae-han, Soo-hyun, and the other detectives have been sent out to capture a burglar.

2015 ... Detective Kim tells Soo-hyun about a crucial piece of evidence — a red scarf — that the investigators back then missed checking. Meanwhile, Hae-young is in Inju Hospital, trying to trace Section Chief Ahn’s movements on the night he was shot; he also inquires into Sun-woo’s medical records. While he’s at the hospital, Sun-woo arrives and confronts him about Jae-han’s walkie-talkie.

Episode 15

Ep. 14 recap:

Hae-young finds that Sun-woo did not take his own life but was drugged and killed.

Senator Jang threatens Director Kim.

Soo-hyun is stunned to hear Jae-han’s voice on the walkie-talkie but can’t believe Hae-young’s claim that Jae-han is alive.
Hae-young is arrested for the murder of Section Chief Ahn. At the police station, he’s confronted by a detective with the evidence (a bloody knife) and the testimonies of witnesses against him.

2000 ... Despite his injury, Jae-han rushes out of the hospital. But Director Kim has already reached Sun-woo at his house.

Jae-han later confronts Director Kim, but he’s dragged out of the office. Later, that night, he calls Hae-young on the walkie-talkie, but to his shock, it’s Soo-hyun who answers. Before the connection gets disrupted, Soo-hyun warns him not to go to the psychiatric hospital on August 3, 2000.

Soo-hyun and Hae-young realize that to clear his name and find out who killed Section Chief Ahn and Jae-han, they have to look for the gangster Kim Sung-bum.

When Kim Sung-bum learns that Director Kim wants him dead, he calls up Hae-young from Bucheon and sets up an urgent meeting.

On the way to the courthouse, Hae-young escapes from his police escorts and rushes to Bucheon.

2000 ... Jae-han receives the forensics report from the USA; he then contacts a prosecutor and asks him to file a murder case against Director Kim. But a short while later, Jae-han and the officers in his precinct are thrown into the investigation of Kim Yoon-jung’s kidnapping. Director Kim finds the forensics report in Jae-han’s desk.

Episode 16, Finale (with spoilers)

Ep. 15 recap:

Director Kim kills Sun-woo.

With Soo-hyun’s help, Hae-young escapes from his police escorts. Kim Sung-bum confesses that Jae-han was killed because he wouldn’t stop investigating Sun-woo’s case.

As Kim Sung-bum escapes from Soo-hyun and Hae-young, Director Kim’s men catch up with him. When one of the men aims a gun and fires at Soo-hyun, Hae-young protects her and gets shot.
2000 ... Director Kim orders Section Chief Ahn to secretly follow Jae-han.

2015 ... Jae-han tells Hae-young that he found the kidnapper’s body at the psychiatric hospital and that it could be his last transmission.

As Jae-han sits stunned from the blow to his head, he tells Section Chief Ahn about what the red scarf can prove. Director Kim and Kim Sung-bum soon arrive, and Director Kim mocks Jae-han by waving the forensics report.

When Section Chief Ahn hesitates in killing him, Jae-han escapes into the woods.

2015 ... As he’s rushed to the hospital and looks at Soo-hyun before losing consciousness, Hae-young realizes that something in the past has changed.

2000 ... Police officers arrive and shoot Section Chief Ahn, but Director Kim escapes.

2015 ... Hae-young wakes up to a different reality, remembering how Jae-han told him and his parents that Sun-woo did not take his own life. But to his surprise as he visits Jae-han’s father, he learns that Jae-han has been missing for the last 15 years.

He goes to the office of the cold case squad, but Detective Kim and the forensic expert don’t recognize him.

2000 ... Jae-han finally catches up with Director Kim, but they’re attacked by Senator Jang’s men. Jae-han escapes with Director Kim’s duffel bag, but Director Kim dies. Later, the men catch up with him; as they pound on his car, he hastily writes a note that he hopes would be read in the future by Hae-young.

2016 ... Hae-young finds Jae-han’s note and the floppy disk that exposes Senator Jang and the Jinyang corruption case. Later, after reporters besiege him with questions, Senator Jang fights back.

Hae-young traces the postmark of the envelope that contained the floppy disk to a coastal town; there, he meets Soo-hyun who recognizes him, unlike the cold case squad officers. She tells Hae-young that she has been looking for Jae-han for the last 15 years.

Soo-hyun and Hae-young think that Jae-han may have been hiding all these years because he’s the suspect in Director Kim’s death. They realize that he could be hiding in a small nursing facility.

Despite their doubts, Soo-hyun and Hae-young travel to the nursing facility. But Senator Jang’s men have already reached the facility.

Inside one of the rooms in the facility is ... Jae-han.

Historical backgrounders and other information

1. Episode 1 and part of Episode 2 involve the kidnapping and murder of lead character Hae-young’s classmate in grade school. These episodes are based on the 1997 “Park Chorong Bitnari Kidnapping-Murder Case" where a young girl was kidnapped and later on murdered by her kidnapper — a pregnant woman.

For more information, please read “The Case of Park Chorong-Chorong-Bitnari, and the Anthropomorphization of Humans.”

2. Episodes 2 to 5 deal with the Gyeonggi Nambu serial murders. These episodes are based on the infamous “Hwaseong serial murders,” where 10 women were raped and murdered between 1986 and 1991.

(These murders became the subject of the 2003 film “Memories of Murder” directed by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who became the first Korean to win the Palme d’Or and Oscar Award for his 2019 film "Parasite.")

“Man Confesses to Brutal Killings That Terrorized South Korea, Police Say” (New York Times):

For decades, the Hwaseong serial murders have spawned such fear among South Koreans that they became the best-known cold cases in the country. The victims, ranging in age from 14 to 71, were strangled to death after their mouths were stuffed with their stockings, bras or socks. Some of the bodies were mutilated with umbrellas, forks or razor blades.

3. Episode 5 shows the collapse of the bridge, where one of the victims is the daughter of the alleged burglar. This episode is based on the 1994 Seongsu Bridge collapse that resulted in the 32 deaths and injuries to 17 people.

4. Episodes 11 to 16 deal with the Inju gang rape case. These episodes are based on the 2004 “Miryang middle school girls rape incident.

From Wikipedia: The Miryang gang rape, known in South Korea as the Miryang middle school girls rape incident, was a criminal incident that occurred in Miryang, South Korea in 2004. At least 41 male high school students gang raped several middle school and high school girls over the course of 11 months. The case provoked controversy due to police mistreatment of the victims and lenient handling of the offenders.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

“The Last Princess” aka “Princess Deok Hye” 2016 Korean historical movie, synopsis (no spoilers)

(Click the picture above to view or download a bigger copy.)
Jump to synopsis of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6; How I wrote this synopsis with no spoilers; Historical backgrounders and other information; Lessons in photography from “The Last Princess”

From Wikipedia: “The Last Princess” is a 2016 South Korean period drama film directed by Hur Jin-ho with a screenplay by Hur, Lee Han-eol, and Seo Yoo-min, based on the best-selling novel by Kwon Bi-young. It stars Son Ye-jin as Princess Deokhye, the last princess of the Joseon Dynasty. The film depicts Princess Deokhye’s life in Japan after she was forced to move there at age 13 by the Imperial Japanese government, and her attempts to return to Korea.

Director Hur Jin-ho decided to make a film about Princess Deokhye after watching a documentary about her on television; he could not forget the scene showing the princess reuniting with her court ladies at the Gimpo Airport, when she was finally allowed to return to Korea after 38 years in Japan. The film’s screenplay was co-written by Hur, Lee Han-eol, and Seo Yoo-min, based on the best-selling novel Princess Deokhye (2009) by Kwon Bi-young. The story is a mix of fact and fiction, as Kim Jang-han is a fictional character. Princess Deokhye’s story had never been made into a film before this.

“The Last Princess” opened in third place at the box office on August 3, and rose to the number one spot during the weekend of August 5–7. Over the weekend, 1.2 million tickets were sold across 961 screens, accounting for 24 percent of all ticket sales in South Korea. The film earned US$12.4 million in a five-day period (August 3–7), with 1.7 million tickets sold. The film grossed US$35.4 million in South Korea. It grossed US$40.35 million worldwide.

The movie and its cast won various awards: Blue Dragon Film Awards (Best Actress); Grand Bell Awards (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Costume design, Best Music); Korean Film Producers Association Awards (Best Actress); Golden Cinema Festival (Best Actor); and Baeksang Arts Awards (Best Actress).

How I wrote this synopsis with no spoilers

I divided this movie into six parts, with Part 5 and Part 6 comprising the last 35 minutes. You can just read Part 1 to Part 3 (or even up to Part 4) to learn what the movie is all about. Except for Part 6, I did not include the twists and turns of the plot, and so, they are spoiler-free.

Part 1 (from start to 21:12)

Department Head Kim of Seoul News receives a call from Japan informing him that Princess Deokhye has been found.

Flashback, 1919 ...

Princess Deok Hye is the beloved 7-year old daughter of Emperor Gojong and Royal Consort Yang. As the court ministers pressure Emperor Gojong to approve the union between Korea and Japan, she runs from her attendants, barges into the meeting, and hides behind him.

Worried about the future of Princess Deok Hye, Emperor Gojong arranges her marriage to Kim Jang Han, 2nd son of the late commanding general of the Manchurian Restoration Army.

1925 ...

Advisor Han Taek Su pressures Princess Deok Hye to adopt Japanese customs such as the wearing of a kimono. Later on, he informs King Sunjong that the Japanese government has approved the royal title for Princess Deok Hye and that she must study in Japan.

Part 2 (from 21:13 to 34:14)

1961 ...

Department Head Kim arrives in Japan. As he searches for Princess Deok Hye, he visits the wife of the bedridden King Yeongchin (former Prince Eun).

Flashback ...

Kim Jang Han, now a 2nd lieutenant in the Japanese Imperial Army, meets Princess Deok Hye when he is assigned as the military aide of King Yeongchin. Princess Deok Hye has finished her studies, but Advisor Han Taek Su refuses to send her back to Joseon.

Prince Yi Wu (Emperor Gojong’s grandson) offers Princess Deok Hye a way to go back and, later, brings her to a secret meeting of Korean students in Japan. But the meeting is interrupted when the Japanese police arrive and force their way in.

Part 3 (from 34:15 to 49:40)

Along with Prince Yi Wu, Kim Jang Han and his uncle plan to strike against some top Japanese officials during the “New Era Celebration”; they also prepare a way for King Yeongchin to escape to Shanghai.

Princess Deok Hye is moved by the plight of the children of Korean workers in Japan; she asks Kim Jang Han to help her set up a school for the children.

To stifle the labor unrest among Korean workers in Daito Industries, Advisor Han Taek Su orders Princess Deok Hye to go there and read his prepared speech. When Princess Deok Hye refuses, he says that, if she does what he wants, he will finally allow her to go back to Korea where her mother is critically ill.

Part 4 (from 40:41 to 1:28:19)

Because of Advisor Han Taek Su’s increasing cruelty, Kim Jang Han asks his uncle if they can eliminate him.

King Yeongchin refuses the government’s offer for Princess Deok Hye to marry So Takeyuki, who’s from a noble family and a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University. But Advisor Han Taek Su insists that the marriage must push through.

Along with Prince Yi Wu, Princess Deok Hye tries to convince King Yeongchin to go into exile in Shanghai. But Prince Yi Geon (King Yeonchin’s eldest son and an officer in the Japanese Imperial Army) walks out of their meeting.

After King Yeongchin agrees to go into exile, Kim Jang Han, his uncle, and their comrades finalize their plans of creating a diversion for their escape by bombing the “New Era Celebration.”

Part 5 (from 1:28:20 to 1:40:51)

1931 ... The Japanese Emperor forces Princess Deok Hye to marry Count So Takeyuki.

August 1945 ...

Princess Deok Hye now has a daughter named So Masae (“Jeong Hye”). After learning of Japan’s unconditional surrender to the allied forces, she takes her daughter and goes to Shimonoseki Port to sail back to Korea.

Part 6 (from 1:40:52 to the end, or the last 27 minutes)

Kim Jang Han finds out that Princess Deok Hye (now Yang Deok Hye) has been confined in a mental institution where she has tried to commit suicide numerous times. Later on, he launches his crusade to bring King Yeongchin and Princess Deok Hye back to Korea.

In 1962, after 38 years, Princess Deok Hye finally returns to Korea.

Historical backgrounders and other information

1. ‘The Last Princess’ a refreshing historical drama (The Korea Herald)
“The Last Princess” provides a refreshing change from typical dramas about the Japanese occupation of Korea, which are usually intent on delivering a message of patriotism, and tend to be heavy-handed in their emotional arcs.

This film has been handled by a director who is sensitive to the inner turmoil of characters, understands that a muted approach can often evoke greater emotions, and weaves an intensely personal story into historical context.

The core of the film lies in actress Son, who herself invested 1 billion won ($900,000) in the film and once again proves herself a sensitive and technically refined performer. She paints a moving portrait of the princess -- frail, determined, loyal, confused and heartbroken.

2. Late Joseon Princess Deokhye’s life revealed (The Korea Herald)
She was born royal, victimized by history and died in solitude ― having lost her country and sanity.

The life story of Deokhye (1912 - 1989), the last princess of the Joseon Dynasty, is a tragedy that reflects the wretched fate of Korea’s last monarchy. More than 20 years after her death, her life, once written out of history, is making a comeback in different forms and ways.

3. From Wikipedia: Princess Deokhye of Korea (25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989) was the last princess of the Korean Empire

She was born on 25 May 1912 at Changdeok Palace in Seoul. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gojong and his concubine, then known as Yang Gui-in. Then, Emperor Gojong bestowed a royal title, Boknyeong, to Yang when she gave birth to Princess Deokhye. Princess Deokhye was not formally recognized as a princess by Japan until 1917, because she was not a daughter of the queen. In 1917, her name was formally entered into the Imperial Family's registry. Her father, Emperor Gojong, loved her greatly and established the Deoksu Palace Kindergarten for her in Junmyungdang, Hamnyeong hall. Girls her age from noble families attended the kindergarten. Princess Deokhye is called Deokhye Ongju in Korea, not Gongju. Gongju refers to the daughters of the queen, and Ongju refers to the daughters of concubines.

She returned to Korea at the invitation of the South Korean government on 26 January 1962, after 37 years. At first, the Korean government refused to allow the return of the last royal bloodline, because president Lee Seung Man wanted to avoid political chaos. However, reporter Kim Eul Han found the princess and persuaded the Korean government to allow her return. She cried while approaching her motherland, and despite her mental state, accurately remembered the court manners. She lived in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace, with Crown Prince and Princess Eun, their son Prince Gu, his wife Julia Mullock, and Mrs Byeon Bokdong, her lady-in-waiting. She died on 21 April 1989 at Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, and was buried at Hongryureung in Namyangju, near Seoul.

Lessons in photography from “The Last Princess”

Sidelighting, natural frame, out of focus foreground element as partial frame
Balance and symmetry
Low angle shot, keystoning
Converging lines, hidden geometric patterns
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Dutch angle or Dutch tilt
Establishing shot
Establishing shot
Natural frames, balance and symmetry
Aerial perspective
Balance and symmetry
Balance and symmetry
Decisive moment
Converging lines
Quality and direction of light
Dutch angle, keystoning
Dutch angle
Establishing shot
Sidelighting, partial frame
Foreground blur, sidelighting
Foeground blur
Line of direction, conveying depth
Linear perspective
Low angle shot
Quality and direction of light
Shallow depth of field

How the cinematographer shows sense of isolation