This piercingly intimate drama from wildly prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo follows Young-hee, a well-known actress who has taken some time off in Europe to get over an affair she was having with one of her directors. Split in two parts, On the Beach at Night Alone sees her meeting a friend in Hamburg before returning, months later, to the seaside city of Gangneung in South Korea.
Those who aren’t already keen on Sang-soo’s methods – seemingly aimless snapshots of people chatting, eating and drinking copious amounts of soju, filmed in extended shots with slightly awkward zooms – won’t necessarily be tempted to give this latest one a go. However, as a character says about a piece of music halfway through the film: “These are very simple pieces, but if you go deeper, they are more complicated.” The same could be applied here, and once you go deeper, you’ll find a powerfully poetic contemplation on longing, and how we frequently come to define oneself in relation to the object of one’s desires. The film finds its strength in its wistful tone, as well as a beautiful visual echo of solitude on beaches, which, like the famous Walt Whitman poem, gives the film its title. These quiet moments gently show how emotional ripples from the past can lead to a pervasive sense of loneliness, perfectly expressed by Kim Min-hee, who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at last year’s Berlinale. Recommended, if you’re not already feeling emotionally washed up.
On the Beach at Night Alone I Directed by Hong Sang-soo (South Korea / Germany, 2017), with Kim Min-hee. Starts Jan 25.
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