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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Comrade Kim Goes Flying Movie Review


If you see "Comrade Kim Goes Flying" I can guarantee that you will have seen nothing quite like it before. This is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of it, though. What is remarkable about it, is that it is filmed in North Korea, which is not exactly Hollywood, or Bollywood, or even Guam. Seeing anything that was produced in North Korea, other than a bizarre appearance by the latest ruler of the country, is almost unheard of.

The production is a joint venture of people from England, Belgium, and North Korea. The script was originally written outside of North Korea, but because it was filmed in North Korea, the people there had final say on the script. The political climate of North Korea is such that, in reality, their government was calling the shots on what would make it through the final edit. The script went back and forth many times and by the time it had reached its final cut, it had become an odd propaganda piece that is supposed to be a romantic comedy. There is nothing remotely funny about it and the romance consists of one man telling another that he wants to someday hold hands with the girl he likes. There is no fake orgasm scene like in "When Harry Met Sally...", in case you are wondering. However, if you look at it in the context of its behind-the-scenes action, it is oddly interesting to watch.

Comrade Kim Yong-Mi (Han Jong-sim) is a young North Korean girl who is the daughter of a coal miner. She aspires to be an acrobat, something that appears to be near the top of the social scale in North Korea, even if there are no real class differences. After all, this is a Communist country, and not one scene goes by without this point being hammered home. Everyone wears a pin of their country's leader in the exact same position on their clothing, without exception. Her quest to be an acrobat is viewed as if everyone in the country is part of her effort and success. The dialog often uses words like 'team' and 'together' when describing anything and everything.

The point of conflict, and you have never seen a weaker one, is that Pak Jang-Phil (Pak Chung-Guk), the star male acrobat, states that she is not good enough to be an acrobat. There is no other attempt at tension here, other than when she is trying to make a difficult spinning move on a trapeze, but if you think there is a chance she will not be successful, you are missing the message that if we pull together, nothing is impossible (or even all that difficult).

The only time I can remember seeing so much propaganda in a film was in Leni Riefenstahl's landmark "Triumph of the Will", a documentary advocating the greatness of the Aryan race. It is impressive to see how "Comrade Kim Goes Flying" never wavers off message. Even the music is odd. The Korean factions of the film have their experience in documentaries made in North Korea, so it is only natural that the music would sound like military marching band music, even when the scene bore no resemblance to that type of thing.

"Comrade Kim Goes Flying" is not something I can endorse based solely on traditional methods of judging a film, but if you think you might enjoy the results of trying to squeeze a romantic comedy past the power brokers of North Korea, this one might be worth your time and money. In my view, it is worth it merely as a study of culture and politics being shredded together into one of the most unusual things I have ever seen.

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