THE SHOWER (1979)
A visually staggering portrayal of the raw excitement of young love and the natural beauty of rural Korea as a pair of schoolkids connect on rain-soaked ramble
There is a universal relatability to the emotional hub at the centre of The Shower. That young crush, the inaugural infatuation, a first love.
Despite the improbably notion that such a young spark will do anything but fizzle out, to a youngster the inevitable lovelorn on the horizon seems unthinkable.
We can probably all recall such a short emotional roller-coaster, one that is combined here with a focus on the raw, natural beauty of rural Korea. Director Ko regularly reverts to profound shots that enable the mountains and streams to frame this young love in picturesque ways.
These aspects combine to create one of Korean cinema’s most iconic scenes. The Korean title of the film, Sonagi, means a brief but heavy rain shower. One that starts suddenly, often on a hot summer’s day.
Here it symbolises the short but powerful love between country boy Seok-ee (Yeong-su Lee) and the city girl who has moved rural, Yeon-ee (Yun-suk Jo). As that rain showers pours with purpose, eventually to move on forever, this pair experience something similar.
After her father’s city business fails, Yeon-ee moves to the countryside to live with her great-grandparents. She instantly turns the head of Seok-ee, who starts to court her attention.
Their bond begins to flourish and eventually the pair head off on a long hike to a nearby mountain. This is when the storm descends on them, meaning they must take cover. Creating that famous scene, they are forced close together, resulting in a tender and iconic portrayal of this awkward yet exciting moment of intimacy.
Based on the short story, Rain Shower, by Hwang Sun-won, it represents one of Korea’s most iconic classic tales. This cinematic incarnation provides the lush and picturesque scenes to accompany this story of innocent young love.
The film manages to be filled with such charm, anchored by an innocent and genuine central story, that it celebrates notions of young love and the beauty of rural Korea without cause to evoke some twee version of nostalgia.
We comprehend the excitement of this young love, the acceptance it will not last, but the appreciation that such childhood memories will remain meaningful, potentially for a lifetime.
This is a romance that shies away from narrative devices that add dramatic purpose. There is no love rival, no duels between the pair and a journey back to each other. It is a plain, simple and as a result realistic, portrayal of youngsters connecting and spending time together.
What holds the film together is how Director Ko, alongside cinematographer Lee Seong-chun, create such a film of postcard-perfect visuals. Switching between long shots of the vast expanse of the mountainside, to close shots of a single rain drop on a child’s arm, it provides the perfect framing for a story of such juvenile love.