Imagine a swordsman from the Middle Kingdom coming back to life through the body of a woman determined to die. Imagine the unsuspecting woman being chosen because “women, gay, perverts,” it doesn’t matter. Just no rat bastards, thank you.
If I must describe Transformation (2007) in one word, it’ll be “bizarre.”
Because nothing in my version of K-dramaland prepares me for it. Because it is impossible to pinpoint its genre. Mixing absurdity with normalcy, the ethereal with the visceral, it is a smorgasbord of fantasy and comedy, satire and sci-fi.
Want macabre? It’s here. Want séances, mad monks, reincarnations three thousand years in the making, spiders as huge as cars, grown men crying like babies, invitations to hobnob with the devil, and Gothic-like settings? Look no further.
Wait, there’s more. How about eye-popping or anti-climactic twists when we least expect them? The plastic (and tacky) mocking the sublime. The past colliding with the future, Judgment Day-like scenes making us gasp. Characters questioning plot developments, as if themselves reeling from the dizzying ride. Tony the lawyer whines, “Is this a manga?” and I fall on the floor clutching my sides. I howl some more when Charles, whose occupation is a tongue-in-cheek “??” (that’s not a typo in the subs), wails like some kid whose candy got swiped right under his nose, “I can’t believe this. I can’t… There’s no realism here!!”
Crazy has never been this much fun.
But even with its mishmash of genres, this is one meal that won’t leave you with indigestion. On the contrary you’ll be hungry for more, because in the tradition of KBS’s Drama City (short drama) offerings, Transformation is only one episode. And what an episode.
Yet it isn’t brainless stuff. Not at all. Written obviously by someone with a wicked sense of humor and a keen ear and eye for the literary and the historical, the drama is also deeply intellectual, sobering even.
If you pause long enough, the seemingly contradictory messages of hope and doom are bound to make you think about yourself and the folks around you. Appearances are deceptive, promises just traps. The angel who saved your life might be the devil in disguise. The one you forsook for greener pastures could prove to be more worthy; may you live long enough to make redemption for your folly and greed.
And the acting.
Theater-trained Go Young-bin as Dr. Louis, whose gaze can melt ice and make hair stand (separately, of course). I’ve never seen the phrase “instant attraction” better portrayed than here in the drama by him. The way he looks at Yeong-I (Park Da-an) the moment he sees her, his slight smiles, just that whole body language… You can light a bonfire with the sparks crackling between the two. And yet it’s all so subtle, so beneath the surface.
Fans of Oh Man-seok must not miss his cameo here (best cameo of 2007, says one discerning critic). In a hypnotic and hysterical performance, Oh Man-seok demonstrates once again why he is such a tour de force on screen and stage. He is one monk you won’t forget.
Transformation has been lauded by some critics as the best short drama of 2007. It’s available for download with English subtitles (and these are awesome subs, if you ask me, haha), so if you have not checked it out, hesitate no more.