A sweet wonderfully evocative animation about adolescence and growing up – finally released on DVD…
Soo-min (Park Sin-hye, Evil Twin, Cyrano Agency) is so afraid of not winning a relay race, she trips and falls. She wonders what her life holds ahead of her, when a new female student, Arang, transfers in from Seoul and becomes friends with her. At the same time she befriends Cheol-soo, a boy of the same age who dreams of becoming a scientist, and their friendship soon turns to romance. Along the way Soo-min learns that dreams are important, and so is the fact that we can allow ourselves to fail sometimes.
Green Days won’t be released in South Korea until next year, so it was a special treat for the London Korean Film Festival to pull off the world premiere, which also included a Q&A with directors An Jae-hoon and Han Hye-Jin, who where keen to gauge the audiences reaction.
They needn’t have worried. Green Days is a sweet story about adolescence, wonderfully evocative of insecurities you feel about what will happen you when you grow up, and the blossoming feelings of young love. It’s probably most effective for pre and early teens who are just about to go through these feelings themselves, though adults will undoubtedly find themselves transported back to a time when nothing in their future was certain.
And there’s a lot of fun to be had for those of us who can remember such 70s references as Love Story and Wonder Woman, all rather lovingly and nostalgically rendered. The daydream sequences with Ryan O’Neal running around with our lead are particularly cute.
For the filmmakers, it was important to embody the spirit of adolescence correctly, as those childhood days make us what we are today. As adults we can reflect on both the happy and difficult times equally and smile. Setting the film in the late 70s and early eighties, as they also wanted to tell the generation then how much they had done for them – at a time when South Korea was still developing, and poverty was still a way of life for many, they laid the groundwork for today’s generation and the liberties they enjoy now. They also wanted to say that it’s okay for those who grew up at that time, and have now had children of their own, to have different ideas and feelings from them.
They revealed in the uncle character’s speech using sign language at the end of the film, which wasn’t translated at the version screened, he basically says: ‘You may feel like you want to cry and you might feel like you want to despair right now, but once you grow up that will go, and you will look back on these times and as the happiest of your life.’
Founders of the Meditation with A Pencil studio, a name they take very seriously, actively encouraging their staff to begin all their ideas with a pencil first before going near a computer. An Jae-hoon expounded on the qualities of working in this way as helping the creative process and adding authenticity to their work.
Comparisons to Studio Ghibli are inevitable, but the directors were a little reluctant to admit the resemblance. Of course, in terms of animation it does some very similar things. It’s not just in terms of visuals – though it’s not dissimilar in style – it’s the more fundamental difference of creating animations that don’t feature battlesuits or giant robots. Perhaps the biggest difference with Ghibli is that this is definitely not aimed at the youngest of audiences, unlike many of their more recent films. If anything it’s adults who will get the most enjoyment out of this film, bringing home nostalgia about who we all felt at that age.
Of course, Asia has somewhat led the way in Animation, comics and other media that are not simply aimed at children. In the West it’s taken films with adult content like Waltz With Bashir, Persepolis and Chico & Rita for mainstream audiences to finally see the potential of animation to tell stories is way beyond kids fairytales.
The Q&A only lightly touched on the emerging South Korean animation market, an important step for a country best known for creating animation for other countries, most notably The Simpsons and Family Guy. (Though An Jae-hoon admitted that 20 years ago he did actually work on The Simpsons.) In a market where those international commissions are in decline, the ability to create and build an audience for their own stories is vital.
(Though if you’re going to start anywhere, a film that with such global appeal is a good place.)
A superb film with wide, wide appeal, let’s hope some Western distributors snap this up and give this film the release it deserves!
Green Days was screened as part of the London Korean Film Festival 2010 and is now available on Korean DVD from Art Service.
Originally published 1 December 2010.
Distributor:Art Service (SK)
Edition: DVD (2012)
Superb transfer of a wonderful film, this DVD comes as what I think they're calling a 'Coffee Table book' design: beautifully packaged with the disc on one side, and a book insert of concept sketches, storyboards and more.
The disc is equally as enlightening, including a commentary, making-of, storyboard, line test, character image, music video and trailer. Sadly, as this is a Korean disc, there are no English subtitles for the additional material.
After a rather late, lacklustre theatrical release and subsequent low box office I was worried this would ever surface at all, so I’m very glad to see this on DVD at last. (And as a superb edition this film deserves.) Easily better, at least in overall story and content, than some of Studio Ghibli’s recent movies (From Up On Poppy Hill being one example).