The Turning Gate
(Saenghwal ui Balgyeon)
Directed by Hong Sangsoo
South Korea, 2002
Cornerhouse, 25 November 2010
This is the final film by Hong Sangsoo in a short season of his films entitled ‘Between Men and Women’.
It is an apt title for the series since all of these films have been about the battle between the sexes, the difficulties that men and women experience in getting along. Although it would be unfair to say that if you’ve seen one Hong Sangsoo film then you’ve seen them all, one can nevertheless point to certain common characteristics:
- Divided loyalties and/or a compromised situation: a married man (or woman) has an affair, say, or a man makes a play for his best friend’s girlfriend.
- Often, a recognition along the lines of ‘A girlfriend of mine did that’ or ‘I’ve said something like that in the past too’, as when the protagonist in The Turning Gate tells a woman that, for him, love means simply liking someone a lot - and she turns away from him, upset.
- Something that should be quite clear. There cannot be a happy ending for everyone; it’s impossible.
- Conversations will most frequently take place in restaurants or in bed or via a mobile phone; the most important conversations anyway.
- When people insist on being believed, or are most passionate, they are lying. Any promise made will be broken.
- The casual gesture is always significant; indeed, it can embody great sacrifice.
- Another formulation of the same thought: there are no casual gestures in Hong Sangsoo’s films.
The Turning Gate has, above all, a kind of unkempt authenticity. It is a terrific film.