This one is a bit of a cheat, as our lady of the week is only a secondary player in the movie, but it was going to get spoken about anyway…
“Ditto” is another one of those romance films from Korea that has a little dash of science-fiction sprinkled over it. Except the romance does not go quite the way you would expect.
One of the things I have noticed in modern Korean movies is that they love to use technology in natural and realistic ways – mobile phones, txting, the internet. This one uses something a bit older – HAM radio. I have to confess, I had a little flirtation with HAM radio a long long time ago, and I guess it can be seen as a forerunner to internet chat rooms – speaking to strangers around the world anonymously.
The same year “Il Mare” was also released, telling a love story across time, but although I adore both movies, there is very little similarity.
The story is as follows: So-Eun (Kim Ha-Neul) is a young girl who has obviously been pursuing a fellow student Dong-hee (Park Yong-woo) for quite some time. Her best friend (Kim Min-joo) is recovering in hospital from a broken leg. Events transpire that deliver an old HAM Radio into her possession, and mysteriously she starts communicating with a student at her school, In (Yu Ji-tae). They arrange to meet – but it turns out however that she is in 1979 and he is in the year 2000.
Additionally, his best friend, Hyeon-Ji (Ha Ji-won) is obviously deeply in love with him, and over the film has a very interesting subplot involving her ongoing dependence on alcohol).
Now I read a few marketing blurbs about the film, and it suggests that the film is about how these two fall in love but fail to meet up. This happens exactly once in the movie. They very quickly work out what is going wrong, and actually the two timelines are kept quite separate, following the romantic stories in the different eras.
I LOVE the way the film does NOT progress the way you think. And then something happens that makes you think a different conclusion is going to be reached (one that could be a little disturbing), and then finally delivers us down a path of both heartbreak and happiness. I try not to care about spoilers with 9 year old films usually, but I think the clever twist in this one deserves to be discovered rather than ruined by me.
It is beautifully played all round. I have not seen anything with Kim Ha-Nuel before, but I will certainly try and discover more.
There is much more going on in the movie than the romance – it explores the change in South Korea between 1979 and 2000 – politics, culture, social mores…
In fact I think this is what I love so much about this film. There is a lot going on, and pretty much all the little subplots are given time to breathe.
It should be mentioned that the film is contemporaneous with the US movie “Frequency” – which has a similar idea about people being in contact via radio in different time zones. What is delivered is so different though.
And you know what – never really explored or stated – but it might just be the same radio that they are communicating over…
Be warned – the film has that Korean bittersweet ending – not everyone leaves this story fulfilled – but highly recommended.