K-dramas: not an easy thing to sit through for long periods of time. Over a course of almost 3 months, I have barely watched 2 entire dramas over a long weekend or two; at other times work keeps me sufficiently occupied.
I have just finished Secret Love Affair and it has to be one of the best, right up there with Shut Up! And Heartstrings. The only difference being that the plot for SLA was way more intense and more from the point of view of adults rather than teenage children. The story is about a woman in her 40’s, Oh Hye Won who works for an art institute, digging for talent to take up as the student’s attending the university run by the same institute. It is while doing this that she comes across a young piano genius, Lee Sun Jae, who ends up falling madly in love with her on first sight.
In the beginning, it is Sun Jae who keeps insisting on his fascination with her but he senses encouragement and takes it as reciprocation leading to Hye Won gradually unraveling her thoughts and feelings to him leading to what is the ‘Secret’ Love Affair, the catch being that she is a married woman albeit in a marriage of convenience. Her husband, Kang Joon Hyung, comes across as a man blinded by his ambition, except he doesn’t amount to much himself and uses his wife’s position at the institute as the means to achieve his goals of being in an important position at the university.
What I loved about the drama was the slow frames and the slow paced cinematography. Each episode, despite being long, spent little time exploring the script and the major focus was on the aesthetics, whether in the form of the beautiful classical background music, or the long moments that the camera just kept looking at something without great movement. The camerawork was so focused; smooth and every second of silence and/or music seemed beautiful.
As for the story, I truly felt like the script and the actors emphasized the fact that despite how taboo such a love affair may seem, Hye Won and Sun Jae truly belonged together. The audience feels as frustrated as Hye Won when she goes to her own house while Sun Jae’s house oddly does look like it’s a warm place full of love despite how shabby it looks.
Other than all of that, the ending was so similar to that of Beethoven Virus, that it was a little bothersome. I truly enjoyed the latter also but we K-drama fans are so used to completely resolved endings for dramas that ones with a big question mark at the end can truly get annoying, especially in romances. You need to know if they boy and girl made it or not and the big question mark at the end just had me screaming at the screen saying ‘THAT’S IT? THAT’S ACTUALLY IT?’ It’s not like the story was rushed or anything but it just left my mouth hanging for 15 minutes wondering what just happened.
Another unconventional drama that I watched recently was one that aired a few months back: Witch’s Romance. It was most definitely a great drama to watch with the slightly controversial storyline of a young man, Yoon DongHa falling in love with a much older woman, Ban JiYeon. Despite a similar story to SLA, this one tackles an unconventional plot very conventionally. There’s the obvious character of a very strong woman who is actually weak and lonely on the inside, a story of unrequited love, a terminal illness and all the makjang that most K-dramas are made of. By keeping JiYeon unmarried, the taboo nature of the drama was considerably reduced. The greatest positive has to be the fact that the couple doesn’t have much to lose by coming out about their relationship to their friends and family. It is very interesting that in fact the people around JiYeon are much more accepting of DongHa than JiYeon is herself of her relationship.
The reason I say that the plot was handled conventionally is that if one were to remove the fact that JiYeon is older than him and it was somebody either DongHa’s age or younger, most of the plot would still make sense because half of the romances are on a similar note.
Regardless, I loved Secret Love Affair much more than Witch’s Romance for its justice to classical music. It was the most indie-looking drama which did a good job at communicating every single emotion that its characters went through.