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Method (South Korea, 2017) is one of my favourite Korean films. Veteran actor Jae Ha (Park Sung Woong) is set to star in a play with inexperienced idol Yeong Woo (Oh Seung Hoon). At first the youth has attitude but soon becomes fascinated by theatre, the production, and Jae Ha’s passion for his craft.
The love affair onstage soon spills into passion offstage. We learn from Jae Ha’s artist girlfriend Her Won (great performance by Yoon Seung Ah) that he does this when he goes “method” for every role. She’s at breaking point: I think deep down her fear is one day an obsession with a co-star will truly cross into reality, and in reality she plays the part of his girlfriend.
Yes, life is a stage. And the way the young actor documents the rehearsal period on his social media makes it clear that on some level his entire life is a performance.
The film feels like a play, and I love that. As Yeong Woo becomes obsessive and seemingly unbalanced in his passion for the older actor he now idolises, Jae also appears to be losing control of the situation.
Tension builds, and it’s almost as if Jae Ha is drunk on what’s happening. Culminating in a tense opening night where Jae Ha screams his girlfriend’s name onstage instead of the character, and Yeong Woo brings realism through self-harm, we understand the student is surpassing the master. The viewer is left to draw their own conclusion as to how much of the emotion was real—and if the actors can’t be sure, how can we?
I adore how Park Sung Woong doesn’t compete with Oh Seung Hoon in their scenes: a true master of his craft, he lets his co-star slowly dominate as time goes by, understanding that this transition is what makes the film so riveting. Oh Seung Hoon is a revelation, going from innocent to borderline psychotic, before stepping back to show us his was a calculated loss of control.
And no I did not find the film slow, or obvious, or confusing. Like great theatre, there is so much subtext, and the play itself is arguably only the final scene of our two leads’ interactions. As an actor Jae Ha’s own process entraps him, and the newcomer schools the Master.
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