Nae maeumui punggeum   1999   South Korea The Harmonium in My Memory
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Director:Young-jae Lee
Studio:Art Hill
Writer:Young-jae Lee
IMDb Rating:7.3 (356 votes)
Awards:3 wins
Duration:116 min
Young-jae Lee  ...  (Director)
Young-jae Lee  ...  (Writer)
Do-yeon Jeon  ...  Yun Hong-yeon
Byung-hun Lee  ...  Kang Soo-ha
Mi-yeon Lee  ...  Yang Eun-hee
Jae-in Kim  ...  
Hye-rin Seo  ...  
Jo-Myeong Jeon  ...  Cinematographer
Dong-Ik Cho  ...  Composer
Comments: I love Do-yeon Jeon and what I love about her is that she always appears completely genuine in performance, but in this film her every move is riddled with acting. It's hardly her fault, however, as she is given the mighty task of portraying a fifth-grade girl. What is that? Ten years old? Eleven? She could be seventeen for all I know, given the poverty and functional illiteracy of her community, but she's still a fifth-grader. All the self-conscious insecurities and pouting of a girl that age—not to mention a girl that age whose day to day life is overwhelmed by a mad crush on her new twenty-one year old school teacher—all the mannerisms are forced. But enough about that. No use crying over spilled milk, or, thank god, in this case, unrequited love.

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.

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