Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds, “New gate of Korean Fantasy film industry”

Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds

Released Date: December 20th, 2017
Directed by: Kim, Yong-Hwa

By: Baek Jin Wook Jan, 16 2019

“With all the fulfilled technical aspects, underestimated film in Korea, Along With the Gods: The Two worlds shows current movement of Korean film industry on the technical elements, special effects, aesthetic of Mise-En-Scene and editing”

Along With the Gods: The Two world tackles about human sin and by relating the plot and the story to the religious matter as hell (underground worlds). It also shows the cultural religious belief of Koreans towards death raising emotional aspect of the audience as well. Director of this film Kim Yong-Hwa, even though criticized by the film critics in his previous drama & action film “Mr. Go”, he still managed to continue his own style of story plotting (relating Korean culture to a fantasy or action, including family scenes as emotional aspect, always ending with emotional lingering image). Even though this film is based on fantasy& drama, it totally has an idea of Auteur theory where director Kim’s personal thought, style and decision. Made this film this as a big challenge for director Kim himself. However many people said that Along With the Gods: The Two World, CG and formalism elements covered the lacking skills of director Kim. With no assistant of workers in the film, director Kim might have gone through critics by the public

According to the afterlife world’s law, all human beings must go through seven trials for 49 days after death and those seven trials are Murder, Laziness, Lying, Injustice, Betray, Violence and Moral laws of family relationship. Where each of the trial is owned by perspective kings, showing different ambience and characteristic with aesthetic match in Mise-En-Scene.

The genre of this film is classified as fantasy drama since it covers the traditional belief, imaginary characters like Kings and angles of death, fish with human face and imagination of the director was totally shown in the film. Still Mr. Kim related his imagination linked to the real tradition belief of Korea so that the audiences will easily get the flow of the story. Along With the Gods: The Two worlds, in this film, the given setting of the film is fantasy, however the story is somehow related to human behavior and human’s nature characteristic.

This Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds, based on the story from webtoon(Internet Cartoon) named as Along with the Gods, director Kim and the author of the Webtoon Mr. Joo ho Min gathered together and revised the whole story. By turning the webtoon to a film, it has gathered 14 million audiences which in Korea when a film gathers more than 10 million, we consider it as a hit movie. However, even though with this success, many people negatively evaluated about the film that the story is such a mess but on the other view, this film has opened the new gate for Korean fantasy film industry. Koreans were only in to fantasy when a foreign movie flows into the industry, like the film Avatar, Avengers and iron man which is considered as biggest foreign blockbuster SF movies in Korea, after watching that film, people’s expectation truly went high that the Korean film makers couldn’t tend to make such.

“MR. Kim Ja Hong, you have successfully died on the assumed date”

Kim Ja Hong the main character, a formal firefighter died while rescuing a kid in a fire accident, angles of death Haewonmak and sub-lawyer Lee Deok-choon and Lawyer of the dead Gang Rim comes in front of Kim Ja Hong telling that he is an innocent man and a nobleman who needs to go on a trial which contains seven trials for 49 days in order to be reincarnated as a human again. Kim Ja Hong is the 49th nobleman who appeared in the afterworld and the king of the underworld promised the angel of death and the lawyer that if they bring 49 noblemen in 1000 years period, they will be reincarnated as a human again. To achieve their goal together with Kim Ja Hong, they being their journey. Together with them Kim Ja Hong goes under seven trials but every time he faces the King of each trial Kim’s hidden sins in the past are being opened which caused crisis during the whole story. After all the crisis in the process Kim Ja Hong and his companies reach to the last trial facing the most biggest sin Kim Ja Hong ever made during his life time. Through explanation and by the real innocent proof, Kim Ja Hong passes all the 7trials done in 49 days. However, the younger brother of Kim Ja Hong passed away when Kim Ja Hong was at the underground world, ending the scene with success of Kim Ja Hong, on the other hand,showing the illusion of Kim Ja Hong’s brother to take the 7 trials. Director gave a little idea of the next episode to be continued.

Each of the trial scenes in the film included computer graphic appearances done by special editing. This Along with the God: Two worlds is full of CG and action scene. In most the scenes, nearly everything except the characters were created by CG and it only shows little setting with in the real world. Setting made the total atmosphere of the story and lead each characters and their crisis to move forward. Andre Bazin said the human being is all-important in the theatre, the drama on the screen can exist without actors. The atmosphere which the setting possess, it represents the film itself. This Along with the Gods: Two worlds is a perfect example of quotation from Andre Bazin. Out of 100% of successfulness, setting with special editing, its cinematography and Mise-En -Scene covered more than 70% of its success.

 Appearance of the angle of death and laywers of the dead, usage of the color black in their costume and their dark tone of makeup signified death and represented their sad but strong ambience. In the 1st trial, it judges a person who has committed murder or has committed acts of murder. Kim Ja Hong can reach the next Laziness trial after passing the ‘Huadang Youngdo’ filled with flames and smoke. The sinner receives a hot-tang mold that is put into a fire land which is filled with lava. All of those shown in the 1st trial scene were created by Computer Graphic and special effects where it was actually the first fantasy scene that the director showed in the film. With no expectation, surprisingly, Korean film industry and CG Company showed massive kind of realistic CG. Considering they had only a budget of 16 million US dollar, it was totally successful and the film critics in Korea mentioned there is no doubt in CG performance. Comparing to Holly Wood film, it is considered as low-brow film (in terms of budget) but its performance shown to the world is truly impactful. In this trial scene, different camera angles were shown to please the eye of the audience, conveying meanings in each angles and by that it also represented the expression of the character (anxiety, happiness, crisis moment).

In the 1st trial, when introducing the setting of the trial court, it’s camera movement in cinematography used Long shot and transition/ continuing shot from High angle to low angle were shown to express the magnificent atmosphere of the underground lava. Considering it was all done by CG, the movement of the camera moving along with the setting is impressive (Like if it took by a drone). Space in Mise-En-Scene was putted in the right position, by performing different camera placement, it showed as if the screen is three-dimensional. The volume of the setting was heavily constructed, creating steady and hard ambience of the setting were especially highlighted in the 1st trial scene. The king of the murder trial, dressed up and had the makeup like the character is the lava, flames and smoke itself.

2nd trial

In the 2nd trial, it judges a person who wasted his life time. One can reach the next trial after passing the “Samdo-cheon”, which is a waterfall filled with fishes shaped like a human face and has sharp teeth.

Especially in the scene of 2nd trial, showing the flow of the water down to the water fall by using high angle with tracking shot using different screen ratio usage, it showed the characteristic of the trial court. Besides that, the scene surely showed all different kind of camera skills and angles. In a word, 2nd trial scene totally proved that cinematography was well applied and used in the film, not only focusing on a specific shot or an angle, it gave diversity of views which really perfectly matched with dramatic fantasy world. Also use of color is definitely well applied in this scene. King of the Laziness, as a women had a costume matched up with the color of the setting. All the trial scenes in this film is connected to the human cognitive and human nature characteristic which is real but in expressing the scene, method is diversely used.

Interesting part among the 7 trial is shown in 3rd trial: the Lie trial. Here the King of the sin is a kid, where the director broke the stereotype “A king should be old and matured”. Interestingly, to show that the King is a young kid, it used a prop “lollipop” in showing the characteristic of the God. Comparing with other trial scenes, there were less special effect nor was the setting created by full of CG. By using Prop, it manipulated and substituted the setting’s responsibility.

Most significant effect and impact of makeup on the character were shown in the 5th trial: Betrayal trial. Starred by Korean movie star Kim Ha Neul, as the setting of the film was full crystal mirror. This trial judges the person if he/she betrayed others who believed in them. The director plotted the story Kim Ja Hong’s betrayal sin as beautiful betrayal. With the story plotting of the theme “beautiful”, the King’s costume was a beautiful dress signifying and reflecting the aesthetic ambience of the trials’ setting. Also with the effect of makeup together with frequent extreme close-up shot, the King of the betrayal trial possessed cold but beautiful atmosphere. In most of the trial scenes, the appearance of the kings are shown in medium close up and used eye level shots to show expression of the kings.  Each trial scene had specific use of certain elements of formalism film. However, interestingly, in the 6th trial scene: Violence trial, director made a significant difference in the Kings’ attitude in the scene comparing to the previous trial kings. Here, frequent usage of Medium shot and eye level shot were shown since the character had movement and high engagement in the staging performance. . When showing the trial setting, it used low angle camera technique. It gave a fresh scene using different techniques and atmosphere comparing to other trial scenes.

From the 1st scene to the 6th scene, contained and fulfilled with elements of formalism, at the last 7th trial: Moral laws of family relationship, where it judges sins between parents and children, possible to reach to the last moment of reincarnation after passing through “Chungo desert” made of sand. In this particular scene, all the combination of technique, aesthetic of Mise-En-Scene, and different cinematographic elements were shown. Putting the best ability of CG technique in the action scenes and combining and relating the real world setting to the fantasy world. Here the intention of the director Kim and its climax rose. Before reaching this scene, the film is merely full of CG effects and technical elements with the setting of underground world. Stepping on to 7th trial, screen shows scenes happening in the real world setting but it also had CG and special effects in the action scene.

Deeply focusing into the character of 7th trial, “King of the Underworld”, makeup and the costume really made the character look like a king, especially the harmony between costume, makeup and the setting was perfectly matched. Brown color of the setting together with the brown atmosphere of makeup and brown&gold costume. Lighting and shadowing especially worked and is highlighted in this scene. Quality of lights and movement of lights depending on the characters emotion strongly emphasized certain moments. In the first scene where the King of the underworld appears, used shading lighting where it emphasized the atmosphere of the King. Here in this scene, Korean film industry’s traditional way of raising the emotion was applied and where the significant characteristic of director Kim appears. Even though this film is a fantasy & drama film based on formalism film style, at this last scene the story went on as narration style. The story went on the basis of narration which it is very effective for people to be emotionally engaged. Relating the story with the family, putting crisis where audiences can feel as if they are inside the film as a character, this family scene is considered as the main scene of the story. It makes the audiences fall inside the fantasy world while it is related with real world therefore it raised emotions. It is hard to catch the emotion of audience especially in a fantasy film but Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds had perfect match of actors to the character which showed its effect in all the scenes but particularly more in this 7th trial scene. In this particular scene, extreme close up shots were created to make the audience focus on the character’s emotion rather than special effect and other elements. Temporal relations between real world and underground world were shown, applying flashback and flash-forward, the frequent transition was smooth enough. Director ends the film by giving illusion of the next episode through engaging a new character who is the main character in the next episode.

Actors and Actresses in the film are really well-known movie stars where their filmography is stable and their image towards audience has no doubt in acting.Even the cameo/extra were famous movie stars where they showed appropriate ambience about the character. However, the lacking quality of the story board of director Kim was shown at the very last scene where it aimed to gain emotions forcing people to make tears, making sudden transition of mood which lead to awkwardness flow of the story. Still, Korea’s traditional belief was well featured and shown in the setting itself and by applying Mise-En-Scene in the film, it covered the lacking quality of the film.

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds shows Director Kim really possessed his own idea and imagination inside this film. Also, in between trials, the director created linkage from underground world to the real world and lead the audiences which made them not only to focus on the technical aspects but to focus on the story itself as well.

Film editing part is one of the elements which made the success of Along With The Gods. In each scene, tons of shots from different angle and position were linked together where it showed the ability of continuity editing. Particularly in the action scene between Gang Rim and the evil spirit, Transition of each scene is smooth by applying different techniques. When the transition was made from one trial to another trial, techniques like fade-out, fade-in were used. Especially in the scenes where it connected the real world to the underground world, dissolve technique was used connecting smoothly making transitions which linked the story without breaking the moment. There were no actual graphic relations between each trial scenes since each trial scene had its own particular strong characteristic containing different mood, texture, color and atmosphere. In terms of spatial relation, by starting each trial scene either low angle or high angle using extreme long shot & long shot. Relating the introducing scenes of trials together, similar usage of techniques are applied in each introduction scene of trial courts, repetition use of technique and editing skills were applied. Still, with the same technique and cinematographic usage, by applying different aspect of Mise-En-Scene, every scene had its own characteristic. Special editing and computer graphic editing are highly applied throughout the whole film. Continuity of scenes, transitions and camera movements are more highlighted by the post editing process. Making and transiting imagination and fantasy world into the screen by CG, special effect and editing procedure, director created the visual enjoyment. However, Along with the Gods: The Two worlds, had no definite characteristic nor presented special characteristic on sound elements. Its sound in the film was just normal as other film which is one of the weakness of this film. Still, the sound in the editing part, adding specific and detailed sound in each scenes, it created an appropriate sound for each scene. Here, all the other elements in formalism film covered this weakness of the film.

This film, Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds presents combination of aesthetic element of Mise-En-Scene and Cinematographic elements shaped with editing process which lead to the perfection. It is true that there was no certain movement in Korea formalism film industry, there were formalism film but most of them were just circulated around the elements of formalism. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, broke the ice wall of Korea formalism film industry by challenging in making the entire film full of formalism elements. This it statistically proved by the number of people in the cinema who watched this film. Not only skimming the meaning and features of Cinematography, Mise-en-Scene and editing, the film added specific & precise part and added aestheticism of each elements. Setting of the story took most part in the film, creating the story itself. As what Andre Bazin said, the human being is all-important in the theater, the drama on the screen can exist without actors, and it is not an exaggeration to say that settings and use of elements of formalism film in the film conquered the whole film. Adding more, Style and characteristics of Formalism film and distinct style of director Kim Yong-Hwa’s own Auteur Style were well harmonized. Looking deeply in to the elements of Formalism film in this Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds, it is able to feel the exquisiteness of each elements applied throughout the whole film. Surely, Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds has opened the new gate of formalism film industry in Korea.

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