- FILM & PEOPLE
- K-Cinema Library
Mar 28, 2019
- Writerby Pierce Conran
2012 | 118 MIN | Romance, Drama
DIRECTOR LEE Yong-ju
CAST HAN Ga-in, UHM Tae-woong, BAE Suzy, LEE Je-hoon
RELEASE DATE March 22, 2012
CONTACT Lotte shopping Lotte Entertainment Co.,Ltd
Tel +82 2 3470 3400
Fax +82 2 3470 3549
One of the most long-standing production companies of the current Korean film scene, Myung Films proved themselves to be a powerhouse once more in March 2012, when they released the smash hit Architecture 101 (2012). Despite the romantic drama having fallen out of favor in the years prior to its release, this LEE Yong-ju drama surprised the industry by becoming the most popular romantic drama of all time at the Korean box office with over four million tickets sold, a distinction it still holds today.
In modern day Seoul, Seung-min (UHM Tae-woong) works for a successful architecture firm and gets his first opportunity to design a project from start to finish when his old college classmate Seo-yeon (HAN Ga-in) appears one day, looking to renovate her ailing father’s Jeju Island home. As the pair embark on the difficult project each with their own personal baggage, they remember their time together at university, when they both lived in the same neighborhood and met by chance as they worked on a project in their introduction to architecture class in university. Back then the pair (played by LEE Je-hoon and BAE Suzy) grew close but were never quite able to express their feelings for one another.
Beyond harkening back to the glory days of the modern Korean melodrama which its tale of yearning love and the contemporary social obligations that conspire to threaten it, Architecture 101 found enormous success through its two-pronged narrative that invited viewers to indulge in nostalgia through its extended flashbacks during the protagonist’s old days at university. In particular, middle-aged viewers who would have been youths in the late 1990s (admittedly just 15 years prior to the film’s release) found much to enjoy as they could reminisce over the past. Architecture 101 found itself near the start of a brief trend for nostalgic narratives, which included other films like Dancing Queen (2012), another title that heavily relied on 90s pop culture.
Viewed in the social environment of today’s Korea, Architecture 101 presents, perhaps unwittingly, a dark side of expected gender norms in the country. The portrayal of Seung-min’s character as a youth is a positive one, played by LEE Je-hoon as a timid but kind young man, but the conclusion of the flashback narrative puts him in a situation where he winds up making a terrible decision as he opts to leave Seo-yeon to her fate. If it’s not altogether clear how the film intends for audiences to view his actions, seen today in a post-#MeToo climate, one can only form a negative opinion of a young man who bears witness to a woman’s experience of sexual violence and equates it in his in mind as a romantic betrayal.
Beyond harkening back to the old days, Architecture 101 also introduced us to several new names, with K-pop superstar BAE Suzy taking on her first major film role and Bleak Night (2011) lead LEE Je-hoon breaking out to a wider audience, while JO Jung-suk first drew major notice as Seung-min’s friend and YOO Yeon-seok continued to pave his way to fame as Seo-yeon’s college senior.