Right away a brief soliloquy makes it clear that yes, Count Said Faid Ali is suspicious about the other Ji-yeong although as is to be expected, his reasoning takes the form of an obscure fairy tale rather than real world standards. Which works, oddly enough. We already know that the other Ji-yeong isn’t really motivated by money anyway, so it’s not like trying to suss the situation out logically would be of much use.
The way “Man Who Dies to Live” is able to to come up with reasonable character motivations from entirely emotional situations is quite impressive. Usually when characters starts thinking overly emotionally, that’s the part where they start to feel artificial and unreal. But the eccentric behavior works in “Man Who Dies to Live” because the entire overriding situation is so inherently strange that mere spontaneous character reaction is quite convincing.
The central personalities being well-telegraphed and clearly defined helps quite a lot with this- kudos to the cast on that. Sin Seong-rok transitions effortlessly between being genuinely sincere and sweet and then being insanely frustrating as a man who cannot effectively communicate to save his life. Ho-rim struggles between giving up on his obviously impossible goal and continuing with it simply because everyone except his wife keeps egging him on.
On a pretty fundamental level neither the other Ji-yeong nor Ho-rim really get Count Said Faid Ali, which is why their scenes with him are so consistently awkward. Ironically, what sets him off is their inability to express any sincere personal emotion in his presence. The other Ji-yeong and Ho-rim are simply trying to give Count Said Faid Ali whatever answer they think he wants, completely failing to consider that Count Said Faid Ali wants their sincerity, and probably wouldn’t even care about the deception were it to be revealed.
Observe how Count Said Faid Ali blows away a great deal of his precious time in Korea by just hanging out with the married Ji-yeong, a woman he only knows from an extremely embarrassing drunken encounter. Ji-yeong’s instincts are entirely random from Count Said Faid Ali’s point of view, yet she quickly grasps a point that has alluded the other Ji-yeong, Ho-rim, and even Abdullah Mohammad Waliwala. Count Said Faid Ali’s entire conception of Korean culture comes from a very different place than the usual socialites he hangs out with normally. Count Said Faid Ali is a man badly in need of a nostalgia trip.
Review by William Schwartz
“Man Who Dies to Live” is directed by Ko Dong-seon, written by Kim Seon-hee and features Choi Min-soo, Kang Ye-won, Sin Seong-rok, Lee So-yeon, Jasper Cho, Kim Byeong-ok, Hwang Seung-eon and Bae Hae-sun.
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“[HanCinema’s Drama Review] “Man Who Dies to Live” Episodes 9-10″
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