Kyu-Hwan Jeon is a acclaimed South Korean film-maker whose town trilogies got very critical reviews. From Seoul to Varanasi is his fifth feature film that he has categorized under radical melodrama.
This is the story of Ji Young, naive housewife of a well-to-publisher, Young Wu. Ji falls into a relationship with a radical Islamic, Kerim and her life takes a dangerous turn as she follows the radical to Varanasi from Seoul. In Varanasi, the radicals bomb a restaurant frequented by foreigners and she is discovered on telly by Wu, her husband , when all along he knew that she was in some other Korean town. Wu was till this time leading a dual life because he was having an affair with one of the contracted women writers while Ji, his wife was looking out for "peace and quiet" in the yoga classes of Kerim's sister , Samira. The plot traces out the urban detachments of people in a relationship and the pitfalls they suffer because of the vulnerabilities that urban relationships have to endure under a cut-throat commercial eco system. And beneath this urban veneer of tranquility , lies a beast that is ideologically bent on destroying all that have been constructed painstakingly . One that can be easily and foolishly perceived as righteous endeavor to bring peace. Ji apparently fell for that.
The plot is dramatic and the melodrama is restrained thanks to some creative direction by Kyu and a superlative performance by the lead protagonist, Young Dong Hwan. The movie is shot in very low light reflecting the coldness of Seoul covered in snow as vehicles swish past the snow-covered roads. As a a contrast, Varanasi is depicted as very noisy and jostling. The credit for excellent cinematography goes to Jung Soon Choi, whose camera work both at the outdoors as well as the indoors reflect a quiet confidence in the subject matter being portrayed. The music by In-Yang Choi is beautiful specially during the intimate sex scenes with the writer.
Kyu has an innate ability to tell a story that is global , dark and disruptive although his fascination for telling it non-linearly can be a bit jarring. Overall the second day went off better than the first and it was great to watch Kyu's film.
JAS rating: 6 out of 10