[K-movie scribbles] Maundy Thursday

[The fourth quarter of the year is when life gets pretty hectic for me. At the same time, though, I don’t want to neglect the blog. How to reconcile the two? I mulled over the matter for a few days and realized that this could be the push I need to finally publish the dozens of drafts that I have accumulated. When I started the blog, my intent was simply to park in one place the mini-reviews I’ve written over the years. But being anal-retentive, I wanted to revisit the dramas and movies so that I could polish the drafts to death and made them fit for consumption. However, with so many dramas vying for my time, that intent is not going to be realized, not till 2020! So I’ve decided, what the hell, I will just publish the pieces now. Consider these scribbles of yore (short, incomplete, disjointed) as pages from a notebook, the emotions in them oft-times unprocessed because they were mostly written as soon as I finished the drama or movie. Some are on specific episodes or scenes; I will tell you if I’m giving away major spoilers. Thanks for reading!]

Maundy Thursday (2006)

I really love the movie, especially the second half which starts from the part where Yu-jeong (Lee Na-young) is telling Yun-soo (Kang Dong-won) about her past.


On this particular day, it’s not Thursday so they aren’t sitting across each other as they always do, in that cozy sunlit room. In that room they can forget momentarily (at least for an hour) that he is a death-row prisoner. But today – the day of her revelation – they are divided by that glass-pane. As she speaks, I am transfixed by Yun-soo’s reflection in the glass – the shock and pain so evident in his eyes as he hears her reveal her past in those few sentences. Then he begins to cry… and to say that he is sorry.

On my first watch, I thought he says “sorry” because he is guilty of the same thing that her cousin had done. So he is apologizing – as a man for the beastly thing that another man has done to her. But we know later that he’s not guilty, not of that crime. So in his “sorry,” it is Yun-soo reaching out to Yu-jeong as one wounded being to another, as one human to another. It is a moment of complete empathy, telling her in one word that he understands and shares her pain. He is truly sorry that such a thing could have happened to her, that her life has become so wretched and meaningless as a result, that the sun rising each morning is something to be dreaded rather than embraced. As his tears fall, she looks at him, almost in wonderment, because this is the first time someone has cried for her. Then she reaches out and wipes the pane.

On her next visit, Yu-jeong does something that is so quintessentially Lee Na-young: she presents to him those awful rice-balls that she has made. The way she announces her feat and the faces of Yun-soo and Officer Lee as they look at what seems like a cooking experiment gone horribly wrong… I just love how in this very “heavy” movie we can still have a quirky LNY moment!

Also on my first watch, I wondered at Yun-soo’s transformation. How did he change from this sullen and violent prisoner to someone so sweet and gentle? Watching it the second time, I pin it down to that visit from the housemaid’s mother. He definitely changes after he meets her. However, I have mixed feelings about this scene. It is very moving but also a little jarring. The woman’s emotional shift – from raging hatred to a warm kindliness – feels too abrupt. And Kang Dong-won… I have a huge soft spot for him, but he could not cry convincingly in that scene; he could not pull off those heaving, wracking sobs.

But that is the only “off” moment in Maundy Thursday for KDW and it really is just a tiny quibble. I love everything else about him in the movie. I love how he waits for their meetings, for the next Thursday. I love how he makes that cross for Yu-jeong and how his hands shake as he puts the necklace over her head. His shyness as he tells her that next week is going to be his birthday. His hesitation before telling her that he would like a pair of Nike shoes. But does he get his wish? In that corridor scene when his shoe slips off and he puts it back on, his shoes look new but they are definitely not Nike shoes, are they? Because there isn’t enough time.

The ending of the movie is achingly beautiful and in my perverse way I can watch it over and over again even if I can’t see clearly through the tears. When he is thanking Sister Monica for sending him an angel and then the priest bents down and whispers in his ear and he stands up startled and calls Yu-jeong’s name, peering so hard to try and see her… Oh, oh, oh.

By the time the end credits stop rolling, my tears have dried and I feel strangely calm. I go to my computer and as I normally do after finishing a movie, I look for some online reviews. As I am surfing rather aimlessly, tears sting my eyes. They come out of the blue and I feel a grief I have not felt in years, the feeling akin to losing someone very dear. As the years pass, the memory of the person and the pain of the loss dim. Then suddenly you remember the person and the pain hits you between the eyes, as raw and as fresh as if it has never gone away. I bite my lips to control the tears and within seconds I am calm. Then a few minutes later it happens again, tears blurring my vision suddenly.

13 thoughts on “[K-movie scribbles] Maundy Thursday

  1. Hi thundie,

    Eversince I’m a fan of Kang Dong Won, I’ve downloaded his movies and will try to watch them whenever I have time. This is the third movie of him that I watched. I’m also a fan of Japanese manga, and I must say that I read the Japanese manga of the novel first (Didn’t know it was from korean novel). It was sooo beautiful and soo touching. Then I found out about the novel then the movie! What’s more it’s been in my hardrive for over a year! I watched it right away, and KDW never failed me. He portrayed his character and showed his emotion just like how I imagined the character to be and even exceeded it!

  2. Eeeh! I know what I’ll be watching tonight. This sounds like my kind of depressing, dark but touching human drama. Wuv it, thundie!
    However, if there is anything I find unwatchable and downright off-putting it would be R— scenes. From your review I see it is implied, but they don’t actually show anything do they?

  3. I have never cried so much as I did after that ending scene…I was literally sobbing my heart out that my glasses were fogging up so I could hardly see or hear anything

    This story was achingly beautiful

  4. Everyone is making serious comments about how much this film moved them. But as I haven’t seen it, I’m going to make the shallowest comment ever. I really love how beautiful KDW looks in that third photo. Eeeeep. *runs*

  5. loved the movie for the relationship btw the two main characters, but i will never watch the ending again. for some reason i thought there would be a surprise ending and there would be no execution….but sadly i hoped for too much

  6. i cried buckets in this film…
    really, it was sad but in a beautiful way.
    one of the best flicks i’ve ever watched…
    reading this review brings back the memories..

  7. Pingback: [K-drama scribbles] White Tower – thundie's prattle

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  9. Hai Thundie…I know this is already very old post n maybe already forgotten (or not?)
    But I think I must comment in this post because I have exactly the same experience with you. Even now, my tears still flowing. Ah, what should I do now T.T

  10. Hi Thundie,

    I know this is an old post and you are not able to go on your site so often anymore so maybe you won’t see this, but I felt the need to comment after reading your review.

    I have been recently looking up all of Kang Dong-won’s movies to watch but after reading the synopsis of this film I know it is not a movie I will be able to handle. I have been trawling the net for reviews anyway, just to find out as much as I can and get a sense of the movie and your review absolutely floored me. Instead of just listing the facts like all the others I have come across, yours actually captures the emotional mood of the movie and made me really upset (which is why I know I can’t handle this movie if just reading your review makes me this upset).

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how affecting your review was and how awfully sad this movie sounds. I really wish I could watch it but I might actually die from the horror of it if I do.

    Thank you and I hope you are able to start posting again soon!

  11. Hi thundie! Just watched Maundy Thursday last night and found your review. I totally agree with the “off” part that you were talking, and yes I love this movie so much. Just so you know for info, this movie was directed by Song Hae Sung, and from his former work Failan, this movie also have a beautiful cinematography that increase the movie’s quality. All in all I love it!

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