This film taught me two things.
A very simple story can be presented to the audience as a complex mystery simply through the way information is released.
Okay, so this story is about a young man named Munho, a veterinarian, who is very much in love with his fiance, Seonyeong.
On their way to introduce Seonyeong to Munho's parents in a different city within Korea, the couple stop at a truck station. Munho goes inside to pay for petrol, and in the car his fiance Seonyeong receives a phone call telling her she is in debt.
She didn't seem to be aware of this, and she gets visibly upset.
When Munho arrives back at the car, his fiance Seonyeong is gone.
Obviously Munho is terrified. He waits. He panics. He searches. He calls the police.
But Seonyeong is just... gone.
Except when he gets back to her apartment he finds Seonyeong's things have been packed up in a hurry, and her apartment is a mess from a quick exit. It looks like she has run away.
So the mystery deepens.....
Munho asks a friend to look into what has happened when the police come up empty handed, and his detective friend (who has loads of problems of his own) begins to investigate.
As a watcher, this film fascinated me.
I could not guess where it was leading, everything seemed so dark and deep and confusing, and the character of the missing fiance, Seonyeong, so very mysterious.
Every clue that was revealed seemed to lead the story in a different direction to where I was expecting.
Yet in the end, the mystery turned out to be very simple.
It was only the delivery of information that made the events surrounding Seonyeong's disappearance seem so utterly complex and unsolvable. It was the way the information was released, or held back, that made this story so fascinating to me.
I think there is an extraordinary lesson in this film, one every writer should take note of.
Remember to hold information back.
Build tension by revealing details piece by piece.
You do not need an overly complicated plot, you simply need to reveal the information in a way that deepens the mystery.
Easier said than done, right?
I think so. This element of storytelling is one I struggle with, yet am so very fascinated by as well.
The way an author reveals information is the difference between an information dump and a mind boggling mystery.
The author just needs to learn how to spin it.
Mind Boggling Mystery:
A young couple pull over at a truck stop on the way to visit his parents.
The woman, Seonyeong, receives a phone call.
By the time the young man returns to the car his fiance is gone.
Her house has been cleaned out.
And her face does not match the official photographs of Seonyeong the police show the young man.
A young woman, Seongyeong, lives in poverty yet marries for love. After being dumped she is so destitute she becomes a prostitute and lives through even more hardship. She wants a new life. She meets another young woman alone in the world and slowly, Seonyeong begins to take over the other woman's life, leading to murder. Upon discovering the identity she has assumed is in trouble for massive debt, Seonyeong becomes worried she will be found out, so she runs away before her fiance can discover the truth.
So it is all about presentation in my opinion.
You almost need to start at the end and then work your way backwards when telling a story like this. Yet it is so difficult to do. How do you know how much information to reveal? And when to reveal it? Is it too ambiguous? Or not ambiguous enough?
Like I said, this film changed everything for me, it gave me an entirely new way to approach storytelling, and the hold and release of information. Prior to watching this film I thought mysteries had to be complicated, I thought the plots themselves had to be mind boggling.
It never occurred to me that it is not the plot itself that creates a mystery, it is simply the way you choose to reveal the information that decides whether you are telling a linear story, or a mind boggling mystery.
Actually, I think I gotta leave the other thing I learned from this film for another time, or else this post will become the longest ever post in the entire world......
So.... until next time!!!!