The Woman Who Ran

It’s impossible to keep up with Sang-soo Hong, the great Korean filmmaker who seems to crank out a film every other month. His style explains why: long takes, minimal editing, minimal plot, minimal everything. Hong’s films are studies in the subtleties of human interaction: the quiet moments, the subtle implications… except that in Hong’s case, it’s not just a scene. The entire film is one big quiet moment.

The Woman Who Ran fits that description perfectly. The film is really 3 scenes, each a conversation between two women, on of them being Gam-hee, whom we follow around Seoul as she visits friends she hasn’t seen in a long time. Her reason is a work trip her husband is on, which seems to give her plenty of idle time for the first time since she married (as she reminds us in each encounter.) Nothing is said explicitly, but we infer that her life is comfortable but dull, and some primal aspect of her spirt is yearning for more, which accounts for her localized wanderlust.

Each third of the film is an intimate conversation with old friends; in each conversation, she does most of the listening, and yet, by the end of the film, she is clearly the story. Is she running, like the title implies? Whom is she running to… or from? By the end of the film, did she get there? Such are the questions that emerge from her conversations, none of them which seem like they would be gripping or compelling at all, and yet- you’re totally engrossed.

Such is the power of Hong’s characters: they quietly make you care about them, even though you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint why. Hong’s uber-minimalist style- literally, a static shot that occasionally zooms in for a closeup- makes his philosophy clear: the filmmaker should get out of the way and let the characters take center stage. The various women our protagonist encounters all have their own stories, issues, and personalities, though we only meet them briefly. By the end of each encounter, you want to know more about their lives, but no- the film has moved on.

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