x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Korea's Bourne Identity film highlights peninsula tensions

Tensions between North and South Korea have inspired the new film The Berlin File, dubbed as Korea's Bourne Identity.

The actors Ha Jung-woo, left, and Han Suk-kyu. Reuters
The actors Ha Jung-woo, left, and Han Suk-kyu. Reuters

When the North Korean spy Pyo Jong-seong's arms deal for Pyongyang goes wrong in Berlin, he knows it is time to flee with his wife from agents of the isolated state - a country that recently said it was "in a state of war" with its neighbour.

Part of the thinking behind that belligerence, which has sent tensions on the Korean peninsula skyrocketing, is on display in the new film The Berlin File, known as Korea's Bourne Identity, which is currently showing in the US and Canada as well as drawing millions of viewers in South Korea.

While the story, with its thriller plot and action sequences, is set against a background of the demise of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and a fictional power struggle, it contains some elements that are far too real.

"I thought it would be special if I told a story of people who lived in a city that was a special symbol of the Cold War and remain trapped in that era in the present day," said the film's director Ryoo Seung-wan.

"Personally I feel honoured that my work is compared with the Bourne series but did I deliberately imitate the series? No filmmaker would do so," the 40-year-old Ryoo added.

Made for less than US$10 million (Dh36.7m), small by Hollywood standards but a big sum for a South Korean movie, The Berlin File incorporates elements from the Bourne movies, using graphic action sequences and a visceral combat style against the grey background of the German capital.

It stars Ha Jung-woo, a huge force in domestic Korean films, and Gianna Jun, once known as Korea's sweetheart for her romantic heroine roles.

Ryoo said that it's now possible to make a film that does not portray all North Koreans as brutal ideologues. "In the film no one is good or evil," said the director.

The Korean cultural critic Lee Taek-gwang agreed that the movie highlighted a fundamental change in thinking. "The movie treats South and North Korea fairly as nations, not the South as good and the North as bad. In that sense, it's quite a first," he said. - Reuters

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