Monday, January 7, 2013

Thoughts on Episode 8

by guadi

...and now, thoughts on Episode 8 

I re-watched this episode a few days ago, and this time around it was an interesting experience since I already know where the story is headed. There are plot-lines in this episode that were developed thoroughly in future episodes, but there are also other things that could have been portrayed a bit better in the future. 

I thought it would be fun to write my reflections using frames from episode 8. So here it is --

On directing, editing, cinematography, music scores and story -- this episode is the most balanced of the series. It has a bit of everything -- fantastic animation, lovely melody that fits the tone and mood of the scenery. 

Two music notes that stand out:

The first is a scene of Choi Young in an iron cage awaiting to be transported to the capital. Then he glanced at Eun-soo with a soft melancholic music played in the background as their eyes lock. I couldn't completely discern what Choi Young and Eun-soo were thinking as in this scene, but emotionally, it touches me; the feelings are very fleeting, impossible to describe. 


The other sequence is at the end when the King and Queen stand in front of those court officials in the official Goryeo's royal attires, and then the Wooldachi led by Choi Young march to the court. That was just brilliant. Love the choir music played in the background. 

This image has been resized to fit in the page. Click to enlarge.
This image has been resized to fit in the page. Click to enlarge.

Visually speaking, the dream sequence of this episode is my favorite. Something about that scene is very whimsical and hazy to the viewing eyes.

First, we see Choi Young laying flat facing the light in the prison. 

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As he thought of Eun-soo's words and death of the young prince. Memory of them triggering something in him, and I love that there is light shining on his face as he is slumbering. The contrast of light and dark shown metaphorically. As if memories of them, of the people he cares and loves, gradually thawing his frozen heart. The light in this case is showing him the way to live once again after seven years of sleeping, closing his eyes and living in the dark.  

Then...we see Choi Young in his dream state.

This image has been resized to fit in the page. Click to enlarge.

First, he arrives at a dark and gloomy surrounding, reflecting the state of darkness that Choi Young has been locking himself in. He steps onto what he thinks is a frozen lake, but suddenly he finds himself drowning and suffocating for air. 

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Only to emerge in the spring, a symbol of the beginning of life where everything is growing. A picturesque landscape with lush and bright colors, and by now we know this scene is symbolic of Choi Young's awakening. The landscape, the figures, and other animated objects in this scene is like a watercolor painting. It's also fitting that this is a "dream," of life and love, of nature, of something human and vibrant. And in hindsight, we know that this dream eventually comes true as Choi Young and Eun-soo reunites at the end and gets to live this dream, of living in the comfort of their surrounding, their place. 

Story-wise -- some great developments in this episode.

First is the story of Gongmin and Choi Young. How the bromance progress thus far. 

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At this point, we already know Gongmin's struggle to be a competent and righteous king. This episode showcases both the high and low of his story arc. The low is captured in the two frames above. Ki Chul manages to trap the Wooldachi, and Gongmin is surrounded by people of his enemy. In essence, he is alone; imprisoned in his own palace, and by extension in his own country. To borrow Noguk's words, it's pitiful.

But just because he's imprisoned and disabled of other resources, it doesn't mean he can't create his own path. 

This image has been resized to fit in the page. Click to enlarge.

The pictures above just resonate with me, and this scene is among my all time favorite moments in k-dramas. That scene, coupled with another scene of Choi Young visiting Gongmin's study, has many layers. First is the issue of status. The picture on the left gives us this traditional way of greeting a king -- a warrior kneeling down in front of his king as a sign of respect and loyalty. Something befitting of that era. Then we see another action so contemporary to us but very anachronistic of the time period, Gongmin, the king, stoops down to the level of his warrior. The picture on the right highlights the level of equality, but also of them working together to as one to lead Goryeo. 

The conversation about King and possession is just amazing: 

Choi Young: The reason why you need to fight, I have not figured it out yet. 
Gongmin: I know why I have to fight
Choi Young: Do You?
Gongmin: I...know why I have to fight. So will you teach me how to fight?
....*Gongmin stoops down and says* : Teach me. How do I fight in order to save you? *He touches Choi Young's hand* 

Comments: Literally saving Choi Young from being punished for the crime he didn't commit. Figuratively, saving his citizens. Gongmin wants to learn the necessary skills to manage his country, and thus saving his people, and Choi Young is one of his citizens. It's also interesting to see the word "Citizens" used, and not the word "Subjects" based on viki's translation. Subject means "one that is placed under authority or controlled", whereas citizen means "an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman" (cr. merriam-webster). Two words with two different connotations, reflecting the time period but also the concept of governing. 

Also if you look at the picture on the left, the light is casting on Gongmin and he is wearing a yellow robe, whereas Choi Young is dressed in dark colors with light surrounding him but not on him. I don't know if it is by set-design, but I think this scene is like a foreshadow of things to come. For Choi Young, at that moment in time, he is truly living in the dark, not thinking of a future. Gongmin is a figure of light to lead Choi Young out of darkness; to allow Choi Young to truly live. BUT Choi Young doesn't understand that yet, hence the first question he asks Gongmin in that prison is about Eun-soo's safety, and the first thing he does after escaping the prison is to find Eun-soo; the king comes in second. Gradually, as future episodes show, we see how Choi Young struggles to find a balance between giving loyalty to the king and to Eun-soo. But that struggle is the meaning of living. Life is full of struggles. To live is to struggle in order to fully understand the concept of love, loyalty, and happiness. One has to earn it; nothing is given. So one has to fight for those things. We may think that Eun-soo is the reason Choi Young is truly alive, but I argue that Gongmin also plays a huge role in creating Choi Young's existence, in allowing Choi Young to find his calling. And history tells us, the historical Choi Young lives to protect his nation. I like the verisimilitude used in Faith. It is fiction at the core, but a sprinkle of historical bits and pieces grounds this story to make it seems real and relate-able to viewers.  

Cut to the Library Scene where Choi Young comes to ask Gongmin one question and answers another:

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Choi Young: I dare to ask you.You said you already knew how to fight. Why must you fight? 
Gongmin: To become a king. 
Choi Young: But you are already a king. 
Gongmin: Choi Young, although you don't consider me as a king, but if you say that, I feel so empty.
Choi Young: You asked me to teach you a fighting method...I will answer that question. A king is not a person who should fight.
Gongmin: Those words.
Choi Young: A king is a person who should have. It's only that there is a king who has a couple of people. Or a king that has thousands, or tens of thousands of people. First, have me. Then, I will do the fighting. 

And we contrast this to Scene of Eunsoo and Ki Chul discussing about the possession of a person's heart and governing in the modern world: 

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Eunsoo: You keep saying heart, heart, but a person's heart is not like a designer bag. You can't buy it with money, but you can't take it by force either. Even if so, it won't become yours either. 
....*Ki Chul on a "date" with Eunsoo*
Ki Chul: There is no king, you say (referring to Modern South Korea). 
Eun-soo: There isn't!
Ki Chul: Then who leads the people? 
Eun-soo: The President!
Ki Chul: What kind of king is that? 
Eun-soo: It's different from a king. A king is...if his father is a king, his son would become king too. But a president is chosen by a majority of the people, once every few years. Among the same, regular people, they choose someone they like the most. 
Ki Chul: How do the people know? How do they know who has the king material? 
Eun-soo: That is why they are doing election campaign...They explain in front of the people and make promises.
*Ki Chul laughs at the idea* 
Ki Chul: Think about that...tens and hundred of thousands of people shouting that they can be the best king. Isn't that very funny?

Comments: Both conversations can be viewed as a stand alone, and we can still gauge the significance of each. But placing these two conversations together, we get to do a side by side compare and contrast between the protagonists and antagonists. I love how different views on government are presented here. One side (the old and archaic side represented by Ki Chuk), sees leadership as something hereditary, whereas the other (a more contemporary point of view represented by Eun-soo), sees government as a form of choice and representation. Here's the concept of time, of the old and new, stands in stark contrast, and here is where I feel that time-travel is used literally to illustrate all these contradicting and often confusing human history.

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Choi Young: People usually say this, "I am going to live on." But honestly that isn't so. I'm dying. Until the day you're going to die anyway, day by day. So that is why, I was making my mind to die as decently and quietly as possible. However, you, my lord kept provoking me, who was good and obedient. To wake me up from my sleep, to get up! To try living.

Comments: I love this dialogue so much! 

And I'll end with this scene: Eun-soo seeing the yellow mums at a garden. Memory of Choi Young.


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