Film: Secret Sunshine – Lee Chang-dong

Disruption of a woman's life

September 2008 -

Lee Chang-dong (1954) was an author but decided to direct films in 1998. In 2003, he became South Korea's Minister of Culture. Secret Sunshine is his fourth film. Chang-dong has many fans in his own country and has won fame in his own country and abroad. He has also won a number of prizes at festivals. He tells personal stories while painting a critical picture of South Korean society. In Secret Sunshine, a widowed woman moves to her husband's home town. Chang-dong shows with subtlety how restrictive social codes and relationships can be. He sketches the conflict between tradition and modern life, exposes how money reigns and how that can lead to a horrible crime.

Secret Sunshine

Still from Secret Sunshine

And yet this is merely the setting for the real story. Secret Sunshine is about one woman, about one life. Not only about the course of a life, told from the outside, but also about the most personal, the deepest emotions of a woman with a truly troubled soul. The young Lee Shin-Ae loses her husband in an automobile accident. Soon thereafter her son is abducted and murdered. Lee Shin-Ae tries to keep going, clinging to her beliefs, wanting to forgive. But it is impossible. Convincingly, with enormous power, Lee Chang-dong shows how a life can change so much that it is no longer liveable. He drags us into this woman's internal struggle. It is unavoidable: for two and a half hours, you feel what she feels. The shock will daze you for days.

The success of Secret Sunshine is absolute. Chang-dong's writing skills are evident: he tells the story chronologically, at the right speed and with enormous tension that is sustained to the very end. Secret Sunshine is also wonderfully filmed – realistic and intensely intimate – and the acting is fantastic.

Secret Sunshine is shown as of September 11, 2008 in several Dutch cinemas. From September 4 till 17, 2008 all movies by Lee Chang-dong will be shown in the Amsterdam Filmmuseum. September 4 and 5 the director is present for answering questions from the audience.