|Nae maeumui punggeum 1999 South Korea The Harmonium in My Memory|
The Harmonium in My Memory is a sweet little nostalgia film set in rural South Korea sometime after the war around 1960, give or take, centering on the teachers and students at a community school. Many of the students can't afford basic school supplies, are often rowdy in class and prove to be quite a handful for the rookie teacher played wonderfully by Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life; Joint Security Area). It's the youthful idealism of Lee's character who wants to treat the students with respect and tolerance set against the older teachers' old-school values of beating and discipline that serves as the film's basic theme. The other likeable character in the film, played by Mi-yeon Lee, is another young teacher who takes her students outside to make noise and run off steam, much to the chagrin of her elders. She's Lee's love interest, and she and he share a passion for music, providing for many a musical moment in The Harmonium in My Memory. "Don't Break The Heart That Loves You", sung by Connie Francis, captures the torchy milieu of these characters perfectly—perhaps a little too easily.
The Harmonium in My Memory isn't a bad film, but expectations are extremely high for Do-yeon Jeon, and she disappoints; all the characters in the film are cliché; the use of dramatic music seems like a shortcut to emotions the characters aren't capable of making us feel; and the ending is manipulative, tacked on to make us get happy about a film that left us empty.
Summary: In this tender and moving story set in 1963 Korea, Kang, a newly qualified teacher, takes his very first class in a small village school. His charm and unorthodox teaching methods soon inspire Yun, a local schoolgirl, in more ways than one. She quickly develops a heart wrenching crush on her new teacher. Winner of the Best Film Award at the prestigious Verona Film Festival, Harmonium In My Memory is a faithful screen adaptation of Korea’s best-selling novel “Female Student” and a touching tale of innocent love and nostalgia.