[PICK] Korean Films that Are More Attractive in Black-and-White

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

On April 29, director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite: Black & White Version, which once postponed its release due to COVID-19, was released. The black-and-white version is not different from the original version in contents and editing. However, director Bong Joon Ho and movie director Hong Kyung Pyo worked together on each scene to adjust the contrast and tone to convey a whole new feeling through contrast and harmonization of black-and-white light and shade. Director Bong Joon Ho also said in an interview that Parasite: Black & White Version is not just about changing colors, but about increasing the level of immersion. Besides Parasite, director Lee Joon Ik’s Fisherman (literal translation) will also be made into a black-and-white film following Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet, drawing attention from movie fans. What charms are hidden in black-and-white movies that many directors consistently make them in the era of colors? This article will focus on the latest Korean black-and-white films.


Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (2015)

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The film revolves around the poet Yoon Dong Ju’s youth. When asked why he made the film in black-and-white at a press conference, director Lee Joon Ik said that he never considered making the film in colors in the first place. With the desire to reproduce Yoon Dong Ju’s poem “A Black-and-While Photo” and considering the production cost to recreate the Japanese colonial era, he said the best way was to make the film in black-and-white. Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet, which was born as a black-and-white film, calmly captures Yoon Dong Ju’s agony over writing poems and the youth fighting against the times, leaving a lingering afterglow.


The Day After (2017)

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Director Hong Sang Soo produced quite a few black-and-white films from Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors to Hotel by the River. The Day After is another black-and-white film that tells the story of the head of a publishing company and his bizarre day. The movie follows Kwon Hae Hyo, who confessed his affair to his wife, and the process of meeting and parting he experiences throughout the day. Since everything is shown in black-and-white, the time in the movie is not clearly visible, leading the movie with a unique atmosphere. Although it’s night, the scene is bright as day. Although it’s the middle of the day, the scene is dark as night. Such production created one impressive scene.


Die Bad (2000)

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Director Ryu Seung Wan’s first feature film Die Bad takes a unique form of putting together his past short films. The fourth part, Die Bad, which depicts the story of Sang Hwan, a high school student who dreams of becoming a gangster, delivers a strong impression with black-and-white production. Such production alleviates the bloody violence and, at the same time, creates a cold and realistic atmosphere. Especially at the end, the black-and-white background and falling snow that are hard to distinguish, make the scene that shows dying Sang Won even more sorrowful.


A Resistance (2019)

Credit: Lotte Entertainment

A Resistance, which tells the story of Yu Gwan Sun and her peers who have been imprisoned in Seodaemun Prison after participating in “The March 1st Independence Movement,” intersects color and black-and-white according to the story. When Yu Gwan Sun recalls her past or is with her family, the movie is shown in colors, but when she is in the prison, the movie is shown in black-and-white, creating a regrettable feeling by dramatically contrasting the reality that the character faces. Director Cho Min Ho later expressed his intention, saying, “I wanted the audience to imagine through the black-and-white images since I thought it would be too sadistic to portray Yu Gwan Sun’s imprisonment in colors.”


Merry Christmas Mr. Mo (2016)

Credit: Indie Story

It is the debut feature film of director Im Dae Hyun, who made a strong impression with Moonlit Winter. The story takes place when Mo Geum San, who runs a barbershop and is diagnosed only a few months to live, asks his son, a movie director, to make a short film about his life. It depicts the story of a person’s memory in black-and-white, creating a dear yet lonely atmosphere. Watching the movie, it certainly brings about the nostalgia for a classic silent film with the sense of watching an early works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

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