‘Feng Shui’ resonates but lacks gripping power

September 13, 2018

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) — Few Korean period films more reflect and reverberate through the present than “Feng Shui.”

Throughout its 126-minute running time, power struggles, betrayal, veiled feuds and greed for the most propitious piece of land will constantly remind one of the recent stream of headline-grabbing news about soaring housing prices, social conflicts and the public censure of the haves.

At the end of the day, the film scoffs at the stupidity of humans preoccupied by the blind faith that good land dictates a person’s fate and even that of one’s offspring. It depicts how pointless and hollow the belief could be that getting one’s hands on “myeong-dang,” or propitious land in Korean, buys one a ticket to instant power and great fortune.

A poster for "Feng Shui," set to hit local theaters on Sept. 19, 2018 (Yonhap)

A poster for “Feng Shui,” set to hit local theaters on Sept. 19, 2018 (Yonhap)

Despite the compelling story peppered with twists and stellar performances by Cho Seung-woo, Ji Sung and Baek Yoon-sik, one might leave the theater, feeling the business is unsolved and more stories are left to be told.

Park Jae-sang (played by Cho), the best feng shui expert of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), loses his wife and young son after he tries to thwart a dirty plot of the powerful Kim family, which seeks to drive out the king and gain absolute power. Thirteen years later, Park, thirsty for revenge, is approached by Heungseon (played by Ji), a fallen royal family member who harbors secret ambitions, to join forces to take down the Kim family.

The two, and soon everyone involved, learn about the existence of the nation’s most auspicious piece of land believed to be powerful enough to redirect the course of one’s destiny and produce two kings. Each character sets out to pursue the ultimate “myeong-dang” — for different reasons.

The image provided by Plus M shows feng shui expert Park Jae-sang, played by Cho Seung-woo. (Yonhap)

The image provided by Plus M shows feng shui expert Park Jae-sang, played by Cho Seung-woo. (Yonhap)

The movie is inspired by the historical fact that Heungseon Daewongun, a key political figure and regent of the late 19th century Joseon, did move the grave of his father to where a feng shui adviser said it would produce two kings.

Does “myeong-dang” really exist? Interestingly, regent Heungseon succeeded in making his second son become Kojong, Joseon’s 26th king. Kojong’s son Sunjong also served as the last but short-lived king of the dynasty from 1907 until 1910 when Joseon fell under Japan’s colonial rule.

To bring home the vanity of human greed, the movie fictionalized that Heungseon moved his father’s burial site against Park’s advice that it would bring the rapid fall of the nation’s fortune. Would Heungseon prioritize personal gains over those of the nation?

As director Park Hee-gon said, “I want to make a film in which the land, another important pillar of the cast, can make its presence felt,” the production team scoured the country for the most beautiful and auspicious-looking filming locations.The result, boosted by the excellent work of the cinematography, is quite breathtaking and fascinating.

“Feng Shui” is set to premiere in Korea on Sept. 19.