Chunhyang feels like an ancient fairy tale that has been given a fresh coat of paint. Unfortunately, the paint is the most interesting part, as the story is told broad strokes and offers few surprises.
It’s about a young prince who falls in love with a courtesan’s daughter and pledges his everlasting love to her. When he is called away because of his father’s work, young Chunhyang is deeply troubled. Things get worse when a new governor moves in and demands that she be his courtesan.
The story is highly predictable, and the characters fail to become more than colorful archetypes. But wow… “colorful” is the way to describe this gorgeous, elaborate imagery.
Your opinion of this film will probably depend on your reaction to its style: it is presented like opera, a story in which the details of day-to-day life are understated, while emotions are blown up huge and loud. The story is narrated by an expressive, gravelly voiced storyteller who sings the narration.
I realize that this is a traditional form of storytelling, but I found the narrator distracting and intrusive, and wanted to know more about the characters. Thus, while the story “rang true” as a parable, the storytelling failed to engage me. The only thing that kept me watching was the colorful, graceful cinematography.