Published on April 10th, 2006 | by Greg0
HIFF Spring: Rules of Dating
…or “Yeonae-ui mokjeok” as it’s listed in IMDb was this HIFF’s final film showing and it opened to a packed audience. For all you looking to go to HIFF again, mark your calendar for October 9-29, 2006.
Most Korean films have a lull at some point and this movie is no exception. It starts off slow, but the slow start gives the characters time to develop. As the movie progresses, the plot and character’s lives are more entangling. Lee, a 26-year-old male school teacher, and Choi, a 27-year-old female student teacher (a little bit old for a student teacher by Korean standards), are both involved in long-term relationships. Lee likes Choi anyway and tries very hard to convince her to sleep with him, something he could be fired for doing.
Surprisingly, a romance develops out of this. Lee’s book-definition sexual harassment and domineering behaviour eventually pays off because Choi sleeps with him. But Lee is out for more than getting into Choi’s pants and they both realize at some point that they don’t want to end their fling.
This is the sort of film American audiences have a hard time understanding. American romance doesn’t allow for this scenario. Our moral codes dictate that if a guy is being too fresh you take care of the situation by whatever means necessary: administrative action, crying to girlfriends, yelling, and if necessary a knee to the groin. Under no circumstances are you supposed to go out with the harasser. But Korean films are different. Initially harassing a girl is sometimes just the first step in eventually wearing her down.
And while I admit that Lee’s advances start out almost purely sexual and become almost purely wholesome, it is still hard not to feel that a fling shouldn’t have happened in the first place because he’s a jerk. However, it is clear Lee’s initial liking of her is deeper than he lets on. The movie portrays him as not knowing how to express his interest, or really how to even woo the woman he likes. It helps too that throughout the movie, we feel like we see him mature from a one-dimensional male agressor to a protective and concerned man who starts feeling guilty about what he is and how he has acted. Also, Choi (Hye-jeong Kang – Oldboy ) is such a strong character that she doesn’t seem like a victim, instead she is often in more control of the situation than he is.
Rumors were an ongoing theme of the movie and I would say more important than the romance in some ways. The movie starts with rumors being spread about a woman sleeping with a principal and being fired because of it. We later find out that Choi was almost ruined by a rumor and her current endeavors seem to be leading her to another one.
The movie is not particularly funny, unless you find awkward sexual advances funny. Nor is it really dramatic. Somehow it still almost comes across as sweet. Whether it’s the idea that love can change you or that people can overcome adversity, the overall message from the movie was uplifting.