A Frozen Flower


Reviewed by: sukting

August 29, 2009

Rating: three

How long
2 hours 15 min

Foreword
'A Frozen Flower' was said to be the Korean version of 'Lust, Caution'. This film breaks Korea's box-office records in 3 days when shown in the cinemas in 2008. It is also Jo In Sung's last movie before he went for his national service. Do you also wish to know why Ju Jin Mo won the best actor award at Baksung awards ceremony? This is my second Korean RA movie after 'Untold Scandal'. I won the movie tickets through a contest.

Story (Spoilers!)

In the end of Goryeo era politically manipulated by the Yuan Dynasty, the ambitious King of the Goryeo Dynasty (Ju Jin Mo) organizes Kunryongwe. There are 35 guards. The teenager Hong Lim, the commander of Kunryongwe, captivates the King of Goryeo. The king checks on the guards when they are in bed. When Lim sleeps, revealing his foot outside the blanket, the King covers it for him. He personally trains him in the backyard too.

Now both grow up to be men. Lim's subordinate, Han Baek (Im Ju-hwan) tries to elope with the queen's maid, Bo Meok (Jang Ji Won). The assistant commander, Park Seung Gi (Shim Ji-ho) wants to kill Han Baek on the spot but Lim brings him back to palace as he is reluctant to kill him.

The king is ill and has no appetite. Lim cooks porridge for him personally. Although the king does not feel like eating, Lim feeds him with a spoon (All will feel the unique bond that they share). He recovers fast and Lim makes use of this chance to plead mercy for Han Baek. Han Baek is released and the others are happy but Seung Gi sneers at Lim for sweettalking the king in bed.

Lim gets offended and nearly kills him. Seung Gi can say anything nasty about him but he can't say anything that is unacceptable about their king. The queen (Song Ji Hyo) is grateful to Lim for helping when she is away but is vey sharp in her remarks to say that Lim gets special attention.

She is bitter but has to accept their odd relationship unwillingly. She is dependent on the king after marriage but his eyes are only on Lim. The king and queen are in the garden. The king asks the queen to sing for him but she is reluctant. The king turns to Lim and asks if he wishes to hear it. Lim answers yes and the queen sings the song. (Goodness me, is the king trying to please Lim or is he really the one who wants to listen to it?)

In the midst of her singing while playing the zither, assasins come. What a loving couple – not the king and queen but the king and Lim. Seeing Lim in danger, the king commands his other guards to bring the queen away. The queen's sachet box is lost in the commotion. The king draws his sword to assist Lim. Those in the cinema with me when watching it really drool over the clean looks of the bodyguards. Moreover, the king is also involved in the fight personally.

They manage to kill all the assasins but the king is badly wounded and faints in Lim's arms. The court officials lectures Lim for being incompetent. Lim bursts into tears when the king asks him if he has seen a physician and if he is alright after he opens his eyes. He is the first person he wishes to see. The queen watches this with a sullen look.

The following scene has both men kissing each other passsionately in nude in bed (This is bound to shock many). Meanwhile, the bilateral relation between Goryeo and the Yuan gets worse as Yuan demands to install the cousin of the King as the Crown Prince as the King has no son. The King refuses it, so the high-ranking officials, who are in submission to Yuan, are displeased with the king. They plan to rebel.

One day, the king gives Lim an order to sleep with the Queen instead of himself to protect the independence of Goryeo from the Yuan by making a son, the successor to Goryeo throne. He can trust no one except Lim. Lim has to go ahead unwilling. This is beyond my imagination. The king can't sleep a woman but he expects his lover to do that! Since he has removed her clothes, what is the problem with proceeding further instead of letting Lim into the room?

The process is not as smooth as anyone has anticipated. Lim can't bring himself to do it the first time as the king is right in the next room. Lim has never slept with a woman before and hesitates to touch the body of the queen at first. But the bond comes soon in the second night, he finds himself totally captivated. Their moaning sounds affect the king who draws bamboo on paper in the next room. We get to see broken bamboo drawings and the king is depressed after peeping at what they have done.

Lim finds himself drawn to the queen. He decides to go to the next town to check on the rebels' identity. He sees a sachet box which is similar to the one the queen has lost and gets one. He sneaks back to the palace at night to steal a look at the queen who is admiring flowers in the garden. The king worries when he gets no news from Lim. He disguises himself as a commoner to join the other bodyguards at the inn.

His face brightens up when seeing Lim back. The eyes are shiny too. That expression is simply priceless! It shows how a person will react if waiting for the lover for ages. Both men still lie together on the same bed but now Lim has insomnia as he misses the queen now (There is a Chinese quote – sharing the same bed but having different dreams).

The king returns to the palace and is delighted to know that the queen is ill. But he frowns upon knowing that she isn't pregnant. All should look at the bitter look on her face as she is annoyed at being treated as a sex commodity. And she also looks pleased to spite back at him to let him down.

Lim learns about it and sends the same medicine that he sends to the king earlier. The king learns it from the royal physician and feels a pang of jealousy. He decides to delay the date for the two to consummate again. The king paints a picture of him and Lim riding horses together. Lim suggests adding him to shoot with a bow and arrow like the king so the king makes the changes.

The king prepares a good horse for Lim. Lim can't suppress his urge to see the queen any more. He hands the sachet box to her. She is touched and wears it. After that, they land up in bed again. The king is angered when Lim doesn't turn up till dusk. Lim is shocked to see the king when he returns to his room. The room asks him where he has been. He lies that he has been reading the military books for the night.

The king tests him on some facts and Lim answers correctly. Lim lies that he has not wanted to alarm the king by returning late. The king then asks why he is so distant after being so carefree to step into his chambers freely for 10 over years? That is sure a daring statement to say in open.

The king spars with Lim in the garden. He defeats Lim and cites that there is no use reading too much without practice. The Yuan officials come with the queen's younger brother for a gathering at the palace. The king discovers the queen wearing a sachet box and she lies that it is from her brother. Lim keeps glancing at the queen in secret.

The queen steals a chance to have sex with Lim in the library (The queen must have discovered the excitement of love after years of neglect from the king. But being so much indulged in this with Lim brings trouble). When both are missing, the king doesn't notice it and sings a song with the zither in front of his guests. He doesn't like it but he is forced to do it. The poor man sings with a group of musicians but all can detect his loneliness and despair in his voice.

The queen asks Lim to meet her. She sews a head scarf for him and he is touched. He gets more emotional when she also makes frozen flower cakes for him. He eats them, knowing that this is her hometown tradition to make for her loved one. The love triangle is formed so we will see uncontrollable fury and jealousy from the king soon.

The king discovers the ones who betray him – that also includes the queen's younger brother. He invites the officials to a feast, thereafter orders Lim to kill them. The queen's younger brother pleads him to let him go on his sister's behalf. Lim softens and sets him free. However, Seung Gi kills the man to bring the head to the king. The king is mad with Lim for defying his orders.

After knowing what happens, the queen tries to kill herself when having her bath. She is saved and the king plays the zither with Lim. He sees that Lim isn't keen to play the instrument. He then annouces that he has chosen a date for the queen to have a heir – this time to sleep with Seung Gi.

The two are dumbfounded and the queen is disheartened to be treated as a sex tool. So am I – I have thought that the king will be so clouded with revenge to want to sleep with the queen this time. Even if he can't do it when sober, he might be able to do that if he is drunk.

The king confronts Lim and Lim admits his mistake. He kneels in the garden the whole night. The king forgives him and decides to send him to the border for 2 weeks to forget the matter. The queen requests to elope with Lim but Lim gives up on her. (he has a clear mind but Lim is too indecisive. He later sees her upon learning from Bo Meok that the queen is pregnant. Both meet secretly in the library again.

The king's miscalculation is that passionate romantic feelings they derive for each other after sex. The two have sex again as Lim is unable to resist the queen's advances. The king is enraged to find Lim not in his room again. Recalling Lim's words (Sigh – Lim should have said that he practices archery in the woods then to avoid this mishap), the king comes with Seung Gi to the imperial library.

There, he finds them half-naked. He feels indignant when Lim declares that he loves the queen. So he gets Seung Gi to castrate him despite the queen's pleas and promise that she will not see Lim again. That is a bloody sight that all have to watch for themselves. The king locks Lim up in the cell but his subordinates save him to hide in a temple by lying to him that the queen is waiting for him there.

The king's face changes when the physician congratulates him that the queen is pregnant. Lim wants to turn back to the palace upon knowing that the queen is not there. But he stops in the fields upon recalling what his subordinates have done for him. Upon returning to the temple, he discovers that they are captured by the king. Han Baek and the others refuse to say a word despite being tortured.

The next moment, Lim sees their heads being displayed on the palace walls – one of them is the queen with the sachet box tied to a pole. The queen pleads with the king to remove the woman's head from the palace wall but he will not listen to her. He has killed Bo Meok to lure Lim out. The queen then tries to get Seung Gi's support. Seung Gi is the only person alive to know the king's secret after the king has killed the others, including the physician. If Seung Gi helps her, she can gather her country men to save him.

Seung Gi then shares the secret with the other guards. All are taken aback by the news. Lim comes to assassinate the king. The other guards urge him to leave but he is determined to seek revenge. Both sides fight with each other. He finally meets the king and the king has thought that Lim wants to return to him. He is so naïve – Lim will be out of his mind to return to his lover who castrates him. Sigh – the two men fight furiously but it is this love matter that weigh in their minds.

The king avoids coming to blows with Lim until Lim cuts the drawing into two. He can't forgive the king for killing his beloved woman and leaving him no descendent. The king is worked up and draws his sword. Both spar with each other and Lim's sword pierces into the king's chest. The guards only come at this time. Seung Gi only gets the guards to stand aside to watch as he wants the king dead. So does the king's sword piercing Lim's stomach. The king asks Lim if he has loved him.

Lim says no and not even once. The king dies with his eyes open. Lim is catching his last breath after Seung Gi strikes him from behind. He hears the queen's cries to see him in blood and only has the last chance to see her being led away. He realises the king has deceived him and dies with him. He also discovers how he loves the king and is grateful but yet apologetic to him. The final scene has both men shooting arrows in the fields.

Songs
The song by the queen is called 'The Fisherman's Song'. It tells on how sad a person is when the lover leaves. The singer is unknown. There is a Mandarin version by Cai Yi Lin but it isn't that touching. The main song by the king is by Jin Mo himself. It reveals how a man is troubled by love when he buys a bun from a frozen flower shop. Excellent singing by him – I never expect him to sing so well!

Interesting facts
It is based on a true story from Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) Korea, and takes its title from a song of that era which described the sexual relationships between men and women. It describes the palace as the well while the king is a dragon. It was a first historical film by the director. He also stated that the film was a love story between men.

The word 'frozen' also describes the love in the movie. How does passionate love suddenly turn cold and grey? That is due to betrayal. It opens the imperial palace like an ancient drawing. The cast and the costume designs were of top choice to give historical rich culture. However, I will demand for more as 'Curse of the Golden Flower' was the best to me in the setting although gold was overused.

This was In Sung's last work before enlisting for military service. He choose to appear in the film without knowing the exact details. He had never tried taking up this kind of role before so he placed in a lot of effort. If he was hesitant because of the minority's disapproval, he would be left with nothing much to explore. He wanted to act out everyone's desire and not much on baring his skin.

He complained that the director kept torturing them. He would hinting that they gained weight or they could do better the next day. What the three feared to hear most was that he wanted a reshoot. In Sung visited Japan during his free slot. He had a dream of that and woke up from the nightmare. But if the director did not do this, they would face a lot of problems.

This was a historial movie and In Sung was worried about his dressing. Was he suitable for it? The lines were also unfamiliar to him as he would not say in this tone in real life. Would he sound weird? He was very grateful to the director. If the audience had empathy on Lim, his target would be achieved even though he was shy over it.

How did the king discover the affair? Was it when they hug each other or they have sex? The cast discussed 3 hours over it and In Sung chose the latter. If it comes to be the first, all will pity Lim. Catchng the couple unaware when naked will depict the reality of life. Lim has stayed in the palace since young. He wins the king's heart and only serves him like a bird isolated from the world in a cage. Only after being the queen makes him know the joy and agony of life.

Jo began learning martial arts, fencing and horse riding. The casting of Ju Jin Mo as the king was announced in December 2007. The budget was $10 million and the film went into production on April 2008. It was the first film to shoot at the newly built Jeonju Cinema St.

Jin /Mo admitted that it was embarrassing for him to shoot the kissing scene with In Sung. Both knew each other too well. They had to drink lots of brandy to mix with cuttlefish to relax. He could not remember how many N.G.s both had. It was tough for him to 'love' a man. It was so much tougher than loving a woman. He was thinking how he should guide In Sung along. But In Sung was having full concentration in front of the camera to the extent of almost torturing himself.
In Sung allowed his own emotions to flow freely and Jin Mo benefited a lot for him. He had praises for Ji Hyo too. He expressed his gratitude to her for being a professional too. Was he afraid that acting as a homosexual would ruin his image? He laughed and joked that his wine buddy, Jang Dong Gun had started to avoid him after watching this movie. He wasn't afraid of it as he wanted to explore different roles.

In Sung was not that pressured as he thought to be. He was nervous but because he was immersed into the role, his filming was smooth. The most difficult part was not to come bare but was how to express how much Lim was in love. When comparing to act with a woman or a man, he admitted that acting with a woman sent his heart pounding. He was more tense acting with Ji Hyo but not with Jin Mo. To bare his butt, he went for training just as weight lifting to lose 7kgs.

Conclusion

Homosexuality is no longer a taboo topic but this movie is special in a way to have two men in a triangle of jealousy with an addition of a woman. The lines are able to create effects by the acting. One glance or sigh can let all feel their helplessness in love.

There is a part which I cannot agree upon. Lim is seen to be forced to be with the king as claimed by some but I feel that his feelings for him are genuine. But all can detect his tears for the injured king is real – not just tears of gratitude.

Sex here depicts the end of lives as the adulterous pair has incurred the wrath of a king and not an ordinary man. However hard they try, they can never change their fate. The king's relationship with Lim is made to be futile and one-sided. When knowing that Lim is not truly in love with him, he comes to realize that he is totally alone and loses the will to live to prefer to die in his hands. However, I will prefer to believe that both actually try to deceive each other and give each other the most painful death out of hatred or revenge.

Jin Mo is terrific to portray the complicated, manly, talented (in both pugilistic skills and the arts) king who is trapped in a man's body. His well-tanned skin makes him simply irresistible. I must say that he is another actor that I have full of praise for besides Park Shin Yang. In Sung doesn't win as much sympathy as Lim as much as Jin Mo as the king.
He has the commanding air in front of his officials. But he is a totally gentle and devoted lover when with Lim. He has thought of Lim to be a homosexual like him but this wrong miscalculation of his makes Lim discovers that he is a bisexual. He makes this complex but devoted king come alive – as if he is like a fish swimming freely in water.

The king has forgiven Lim once but not twice. No doubt he is a cheat who is scared that Lim will leave him like Han Baek. All can sense his sorrow and despair. He knows of Lim's doing but he chooses not to know and makes sacrifices. He has convinced the audience that his love is no different from a normal person. the couple's infidelity explains why the king becomes blood thirsty at the end.

All will sympathize the poor man – on his foolishness in asking Lim if he has loved him before. He should have known the answer but he chooses to deceive Lim to die in his hands. He teaches the couple how to love and even let their unborn child stay alive but he gets nothing in the end. Jin Mo truly deserves to win the best actor award. The king is calm and cool but he loses his direction in love.

Many In Sung fans must be satisfied with his perfect figure. Lim initially resists against women but later becomes so addicted to it that he demands for more. However, he needs to work more on the emotions sector as he seems quite robotic and restless in delivering his lines. He has the same annoying look from 'Piano' and 'Memories of Bali' at times.

Ji Hyo has transformed in her acting. She looks lifeless in 'Princess Hours' but is very different in here. The queen is miserable and has complaints on the king. After having dangerous liaisons with Lim, she becomes lively. Even though they struggle within themselves, she is a daredevil to have affairs under the king's nose. There is a seductive sparkle in her eyes and her portrayal is daring indeed. But when their affair is discovered, there are dark circles around her eyes and she looks haggard now.

The sex scenes are beautifully shot. Besides the steamy scenes between In Sung and Ji Hyo, all should watch the special affections both men show for each other. Their tone of speech is really….unique. The ending of tragic demise is expected. When compared with 'Untold scandal', the acting is at par but the dramatic effect is very much reduced.

The fighting scenes are passable. I don't think blood should be splashing everywhere as in the movie. How can it defy the force of gravity? It has been done over the top. The addition of the riding scene is a surprise – is it hinting that this is only a dream and both leave the palace? This might satisfy some viewers who wish the men to be together. It is an above average film but it doesn't satisfy me that much as the plot is too predictable. Luckily the powerful acting from the cast rescues a watery plot.

Sukting's ratings :

On acting : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)

On songs : ***1/2 (Scale of 5)


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