Heart Blackened is a more melo, humane remake of the Chinese film Silent Witness. While the Chinese version was good in building up the tension on the murder trial of the daughter of a rich businessman, the Korean one opted for a more dramatic take on a father’s sacrifice for his daughter.
I watched the Chinese film as soon as news of the Korean remake came out and liked it so I was curious how the Koreans will take the material and interpret it on the big screen.
Both films had a powerhouse cast: Sun Honglei, Aaron Kwok and Yu Nan led the Chinese version while Choi Min-sik, Park Hae-joon and Park Shin-hye played the counterpart roles in the Korean one (I mistakenly thought at first that Aaron’s prosecutor role would be played by Ryu Jun-yeol).
I first watched Heart Blackened without English subs since I was more or less familiar with the plot even if I understood nothing from the dialogues. Despite that language barrier, there was one character that stood out for me more than the wealthy businessman or the murdered girlfriend (played very exquisitely by Honey Lee) or the defense lawyer who was merely a pawn in the trial.
This character is Jung Seung-gil, played by Jo Han-chul, the loyal right hand of the rich businessman. I don’t remember this character from the Chinese version but in the Korean one, he was the one that left a deep impression, and prompted me to rewatch the last 15 minutes of the film even without the subs.
Jo Han-chul’s portrayal was very consistent that even if he was just in the periphery in a scene, his loyalty to his boss and the turmoil he was going through having to execute the plan was so palpable. Now, that is an actor, who stays in character even if the focus was not on him and still would draw the audience’s attention to his emotions.
The tour de force is the last scene. Quite a simple scene but very poignant showing the boss and his loyal aide eating in a roadside stall in Thailand. The boss is smoking while looking into space while the aide is slurping his noodles hungrily. The boss looks at him with amusement and offers his uneaten bowl of noodles. The aide begins to accept it but the boss pulls the bowl back making him choke. They share a look and both chuckle. The boss pushes the bowl forward again and the aide takes it. While he resumes eating, he looks at his boss in a mixture of sympathy, pity and pain. There are no lines spoken but Jo Han-chul’s acting is more than enough to convey the depth of that scene, and which leaves you staring at the screen as the credits roll feeling what Jung Seung-gil was feeling right then.
And it struck me that the “silent witness” is really this character, who saw and knew everything, and was even part of the conspiracy to save a daughter from the gallows for murder.
I really hope Jo Han-chul gets recognized for his acting in this film. That final scene doesn’t fail to make me cry no matter how many times I have rewatched it (I have to admit I’ve watched it a few times just to see his acting.) His performance encapsulates what the audience must probably be trying to come to terms with after knowing the truth.
I liked both versions of the film but they are quite different in tone. The Chinese version was more a thriller while the Korean one was a melodrama, something that Koreans are good at so it was no surprise they took this road to bring the story to the screen.
© Orange Jasmine Purple Yam (blogging since 2001). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the contents in this site without permission from the author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Orange Jasmine Purple Yam with appropriate link to the original content.