“The King and the Clown”
Touching and Fascinating
Set in 16th century Korea, “The King and the Clown” is a touching love story between two clowns who are street performers. The film had huge success in Korea having sold more than twelve million tickets in seven weeks. The themes of love, jealousy and politics are not new to cinema; they nevertheless hold the viewer’s interest which does not sag for a moment here. Director Jun-Ik Lee has put together a magnificent and beautiful film about the Joseon dynasty. The film is multifaceted and multi-layered and is a love story, a political drama, a comedy, a tragedy, a musical, a historical epic and even more.
Visually the movie is gorgeous to watch, the soundtrack is melodious and the acting is excellent. It is both a simple and a subtle movie which is charged with emotion. The topic of homosexuality is still somewhat taboo in Korea and to have a film that deals with it is a big step. The main plot is about two men who love each other deeply and passionately but do not know how to show that love and therefore are content with just friendship. Jang-sang, the leader of a group of jesters, is madly in love with Gong-gil, a member of his troupe. The clowns go to Seoul and wind up on the stage of King Yeonsan who likes their performance and he falls for the effeminate Gong-gil. They begin an affair which they thought was quite secret but the opposite is true. Of course the queen is enraged and she sets out not only to destroy Gong-gil but the entire troupe. We watch as emotion overtakes Jang-sang and we are left to furnish our own conclusion.
Everything about the movie is fine—the narration is well crafted ad presented, the dialog is wonderful, the timing is perfect and the cinematography is outstanding. It is interesting that the movie was so successful in Korea as it deals blatantly with gay men and this is because this is not the main focus of the film. We, the audience, focus on the hardships of lower class life, social differences, and the psychological world of the characters as merely people. All of the sufferings come together as the clowns become part of the court and we see the class differences quite boldly.