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Not your Standard Romeo and Juliet--POWERFUL and Awe-INSPIRING!!

  • Dec 21, 2008

OASIS is a very real tale of life directed by Chang-Dong Lee. I've heard someone saying before that filming comedy is hard; a genuine melodrama is almost impossible. Well, "Oasis" is a film of raw emotion; happiness and laughter, sadness and tears. When and if all the right factors come together in the same movie, we see an accomplishment that truly is alive, that the proceedings seem to have a life all it's own and the plot truly breathes.

Jong-Du is a young man who is almost at the end of his rope, he has made a lot of bad choices and lives his life without a care. He has just gotten out of prison to serve a sentence of vehicular manslaughter, his family and friends greet him with somewhat a lukewarm reception. Jong-Du finds it very difficult to re-adjust to common life and for some reason, he seeks out the family of the man killed in the car accident; mostly for the purpose of amusing himself and partly to apologize. When he arrives, he finds Gong-Ju (Moon So-ri), the man's cerebral palsy inflicted daughter who spends most of her days in a tiny apartment fantasizing in her own dreamworld. The two misfits of society begin to form a bond that is both impressive, touching and disturbing. 

  Moon So-ri

The film's title is very fitting. "Oasis" signifies a world wherein a person or couple can have a place all their own without care or consequences of modern society. Jong-Du (Kyung-Gu Sol) is a young man who is seen as lacking in common sense and smarts to make the right choices for himself. He tries to just "make" do with his life but for some reason, anything he does goes blowing up on his face. Gong-ju (So-ri Moon) is a young woman, who is suffering from a crippling ailment that keeps her from articulating properly, her muscles shake without her accord. We see two people searching for something that is missing from their lives. By themselves, they are nothing but bits and pieces but together they become complete.

The film's main strengths come from the lead characters' performances, which is just unbelievable. So-ri Moon won numerous awards for her performance that outshines ANYTHING I've seen before. Her physical performance filled me with awe; as she contorts her own body to express the pain the disease has inflicted upon her. Moon successfully twists to the sharp, stiff movements (much like a contortionist would) of her limbs which is almost weird, since the gestures really look like they're not her own volition. Of course, Kyung-Gu Sol's (Public Enemy) performance is also worth mentioning. He successfully portrays the role of a simpleton with such depth and tremendous odd charisma. His is not a simple idiot, but rather one with layers upon layers of character; with each underlying layer that adds more depth to his portrayal. 

     dreaming and imagination

Every great story has its complications. Without any opposition then the couple will just play around their fantasy world and the emotional impact of the film will not achieve its potential. Both sides of their respective families beset the couple. Jong-du's brethren sees Gong-ju as a woman who is handicapped and should be left alone; they see her as another bad mistake. Gong-ju's family sees Jong-du as the murderer of her father. There was a very moving scene where Jong-du took Gong-ju to his family's party in a restaurant. The couple had to bear all the humiliating stares and whispers by the patrons of a public place. Despite all odds, the couple decides to continue seeing each other despite their families' wishes, which will ultimately test the strength of love they feel for one another.

I was very moved and at the same time disgusted with the family of each side, since they have their own motivations for keeping the two apart. There is a nice almost unexpected twist regarding the car accident, I really found myself repelled that one's family (Gong-ju's) will use her handicap as an advantage to cheat and for financial advantages, at the same time ashamed of her and mostly neglects her needs. I understand that the families have their own concerns about the views of society. I think the film's premise is so deep that it goes further than your standard "Romeo and Juliet" with two lovers in an "against all odds" predicament.

I found "Oasis" a very difficult film to review. It is very different from all the love stories that have been told through the years. Whether it is because of the "taboos" involving the handicapped, or maybe because of the fact that reproducing these two VERY unique characters and their TRULY odd relationship are almost unachievable. The film truly pushes the envelope with its pessimistic portrayal of society. It pushes the limits of film-making, and makes one ponder a single honest question; "How far would you go to love someone? How do you know if what you have is something real or just a product of necessity?"

The film truly challenges the very definition of LOVE that it will test our hearts and minds.

VIDEO/AUDIO: 1.78 ratio Anamorphic Widescreen. The transfer is pretty simple for the U.S. release (I rented this film first). The picture is lacking in contrast and has an inky color palette. I thought this was done on purpose until I bought the region-3 release from CJ Entertainment, which was flawless in picture and audio quality. If you're able to play import dvds, get the original Korean release that carries spectacular PQ and DTS sound. English Subtitles are excellent.


poster Not your Standard Romeo and Juliet--POWERFUL and Awe-INSPIRING!! Not your Standard Romeo and Juliet--POWERFUL and Awe-INSPIRING!! dreaming and imagination Moon So-ri

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William ()
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About this movie


Oasis (Hangul: 오아시스) (2002) is South Korea Lee Chang-dong's third feature film, and the last one he directed before his stint as South Korea's Minister of Culture. The film's plot tells about the difficult romance between a mildly mentally disabled man who was just released from jail after a two and a half year sentence for involuntary manslaughter and a woman with severe cerebral palsy. Starring in these roles are the couple from Lee Chang-dong's previous film Peppermint Candy: Sol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri. The movie also shows how the two main characters are treated by their families and perceived by the people around them.

The film was a critical success, earning prizes in numerous film festivals. Among the most important were the special director's prize given to Lee Chang-dong at the Venice Film Festival and the Marcello Mastroianni award for best "first time" actress given to Moon So-ri at the same event.

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Genre: Drama
Release Date: January 11, 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 2hrs 12min
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