Director: Jang Woo-jin
Starring: Seo Young-hwa, Yang Heung-ju
Duration: 98 min
Winter’s Night, a meditative drama reflecting on the lifecycle of romance as seen through the eyes of four stranded tourists. Director Jang Woo-jin takes us on a journey through vivid landscapes and alcohol-fuelled encounters in which the two couples are thrust into a remote environment with no real escape from the circumstances of their relationships.
A husband and wife, on their journey home from a trip to the beautiful Buddhist Temple ‘Cheongpyeongsa’, are forced to ask the taxi driver to turn back when the wife realises to her horror that she cannot find her mobile phone. This opening sequence begins a journey of quiet reflection as Eun-ju (Seo Young-hwa, On the Beach at Night Alone) and her husband Heung-ju find themselves retracing not only their footsteps but also the echoes of a long and fraught relationship.
The two eventually seek shelter at a local B&B and retire for the night to a warm room, lit by a vivid red from the glow of the heater. It is not long however before the pair venture out one by one into the snow to contemplate the long night ahead. Hallucinatory visuals and curious encounters with a young couple not unlike Eun-ju and Heung-ju thirty years earlier invite us to question reality. The trademark minimalism of Jang’s dialogue gives the actors ample opportunity to add nuance to their performances, while it is in moments of aching silence that the film manifests its tension.
Winter’s Night boasts a diverse cast led by the impressive talents of Seo Young-hwa, a celebrated art-house veteran and frequent collaborator with Hong Sang-soo. After premiering at the 2018 Jeonju International Film Festival, Winter’s Night was invited to the International Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year. The film recreates the same wistful melancholy of festival-favourite Autumn, Autumn which won Jang Woo-jin the prestigious Vision-Director's Award at Busan International Film Festival back in 2016. Set against the serene backdrop of his own hometown, Jang’s enigmatic tale of two couples at the bookends of love offers a tender glimpse into time and memory.