The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-Soo, 2011)

Book chon bang hyang aka The Day He Arrives is a film by South Korean director, Hong Sang-soo. The subject is simple. A director on hiatus, Seong-jin, returns to Seoul to see a friend. Firstly he visits his ex-girlfriend, Kyung-jin with whom he seemed to have had a bad break-up, but still loves. The next day he visits his friend Young-ho who is a film critic. He is joined by a friend Bo-ram, who also works in the film area being a college professor.

In any of the three nights, they go to a bar, always empty where the owner is never present when they get there. Once she returns Seong-jin notices how much he looks like his ex-girlfriend. Both characters are played by the same actress. That certainly says something. Their lives are void of any events as they are so surprised of the coincidences they encounter.
I liked what one of the characters said: “Do you know what to say to a person to make them believe you truly understand them? Describe their behavior now and tell them that inside they are really the opposite of what they appear to be.”

Shot in black and white, Sang-soo Hong shows us a cold and empty Seoul, evoking the characters’ loneliness and hollowness of their lives.

The performances are natural, bringing their characters close to reality. The narrative technique is very interesting. It feels like the day is repeating itself, with small differences. The characters act different each day, becoming more and more distant. One time they have interesting conversations and other time they talk about emotional and serious subjects. It either snows or not. I loved this parallel. It’s why this film is so unique.
The Day He Arrives is a film about the monotony of life, about the good days and bad days, about how we try to change our lives and ourselves. It’s nice to debate and analyze this remarkable film. Try it. It’s only 80 minutes.

B+

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