By Cassandra Goh
Maggie Lee in the Hollywood Reporter: “Basking in the sunny, relaxed mood of its cleverly punning title — which means ‘Summer, Summer, Summer’ in Korean — Hahaha is a midsummer night (and day) sex comedy that sees director Hong Sang Soo at his most good-humored and tolerant toward his characters.”
Directed and written by Hong Sang-soo, Hahaha (하하하, 2010), which means, “summer, summer, summer” in Korean is a 2010 South Korean comedy-drama that entered the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Prix Un Certain Regard. Hong Sang-soo, well-known for refreshing narratives and good-humored comedy, portrayed a series of flashback scenes between two old friends from multiple perspectives in Hahaha.
“Sticking to the pleasant parts, a sip for a memory”
Hahaha is a film filled with irony portrayed in frames of black-and-white still photographs and flashbacks scenes. Basically, this film is a story within a story. “Connecting two movies within the same movie” was what Hong’s dedicated in inventing. This film composite of distinctive camerawork such as alternating between dynamic shots to still shots, rapid pan and zooms, as well as static shots. In this film, Hong uses still shots to relate the story of two friends recounting their experiences in a small town, Tongyeong, without them realizing that their stories intertwined, while having drinks together.
The story, more of a farce was brought about most distinctively through one aspect, which is the location – most importantly, the place they were drinking, the place they met their desired girl and the place they have went to throughout their trip. Hong’s film moved away from overtly structural filmmaking as his film revolves around orbital relationships among three men each with three women.
Alternating between stills and motion shots, and the two respective voiceover narrations while narrating their respective encounters, it creates a layer of impression where audiences tend to forget that these parallel events are supposedly taking place at the same time. In which, it is a clever form of cinematography as this evokes a greater sense of immersion of audiences being more involved in each of their respective encounter than them crossing paths in their individual journey. Shot in black-and-white, it reemphasized that the focus of the film is not so much of the “present” but their recount of their encounter acts more of the “present” instead. The change in one story to another is with every new “cheers!” at the end of a still shot. This keeps audiences aware of the story being a recount and despite so, how the focus is shifted to their journey instead. This creates another layering signifying the tension and awkwardness the two friends felt as they met up with people around them.
Like most of Hong’s films, this film is in a composition of pairs. In scenes where there are more than two characters, the camera pans and focuses on two actors. The use of pan and zooms in these scenes, in which I felt was too abrupt in certain ones was used an emphasis and a form of asserting the character’s emotions and actions. The focus of compositing pairs in scenes is a form of mise en scène portraying the emphasis of the awkwardness and tension between the protagonist and the other character – mother, a woman or even a buddy. This form of cinematography makes it easier for audiences to relate to as it depicts the frailty and awkwardness of social existence and social relationships.
As the film develops, the connection between each character gets stronger and the social awkwardness between characters seems to diminish. One of the scenes I felt most for was the scene nearing the end of the near 2 hours film, where Jo Moon-Kyeong (Kim Sang-Kyeong) was at his mother’s Globefish shop. Probably his last visit before shifting to Canada, his mother handed him an envelope consisting of $6,800 – likely to be every amount she had left – and cried because she felt sad that he was leaving. This shows a great form of character building and a large progression among the characters. In the earlier scenes where he visited his mother’s shop, she said, “He’s gotten so big, I wonder if he’s really mine.”In comparison to how she felt at the end after the film progresses, it evokes a greater sense of a mother’s loss when her son is leaving for another country. In addition, what’s surprising is how there is a smooth reduction of awkwardness and tension between them.
To be able to watch this film, one needs to have patience for a relatively slow-paced story telling. Honestly, I could not accept how the story was developing so slowly and how conversations tend to be dull and seemingly long – especially since it was in Korean language. However, no doubt this film created layering in which I felt it was amazing how I always tend to forget that it was a recount of stories and the issue of social awkwardness and tension was relatable.
List of References:
1. HanCinema, 2011. Film Review: Hahaha. [Online] Available on: http://www.hancinema.net/hancinema-s-film-review-ha-ha-ha-28938.html#!prettyPhoto [Accessed on 22 June]
2. The New Yorker, 2011. Hong Sang-soo: Modern Mastery. [Online] Available on: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2011/02/modern-mastery.html
3. Notebook, 2010. Cannes 2010: Hong Sang-soo’s “Hahaha” + Un Certain Regard Awards. [Online] Available on: http://mubi.com/notebook/posts/cannes-2010-hong-sang-soos-ha-ha-ha-un-certain-regard-awards [Accessed on 22 June]
4. Examiner, 2011. Movie Review: “Hahaha (2010)” delivers wry humor at the International. [Online] Available on: http://www.examiner.com/review/movie-review-hahaha-2010-delivers-wry-humor-at-the-international [Accessed on 22 June]
5. Film Business Asia, 2013. Hahaha 하하하. [Online] Available on: http://www.filmbiz.asia/reviews/hahaha [Accessed on 22 June]
* Cassandra Goh is a sleep deprived student trying very hard to survive in school. Aspiring to be a director/photographer. To know more: http://www.twitter.com/_kasandura