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For Eternal Hearts

Cha Soo-Yeon and Jeong Kyung-Ho in For Eternal Hearts.
Year: 2007  
Director: Hwang Kyoo-Deok  
Producer: Hwang Kyoo-Deok  
Writer: Hwang Kyoo-Deok  
  Cast: Jeong Kyung-Ho, Kim Min-Seon, Cha Soo-Yeon, Kim Byeong-Seon, Jeong Jin-Young
  The Skinny: Part ghost story, part romance, For Eternal Hearts fails in its attempt to put a supernatural spin on the increasingly fashionable "pure love" story. Inane plot twists, zero chemistry amongst its lead actors, and a rudderless plot make this a nightmare to watch.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Writer/director Hwang Kyoo-Deok's For Eternal Hearts attempts to mix two seemingly disparate genres - romance and horror. On one hand, the film is a nostalgic journey back in time narrating one's man's experience of first love. On the other, it's a creepy ghost story, complete with all the visual trappings associated with the genre - a haunted mansion, creepy long-haired women, and plot twists galore. A successful melding of these two formulas isn't completely out of the question - Ghost (1990) might be a good example - but, all in all, For Eternal Hearts feels like a terrible patch job. It's not romantic enough to be a love story, but it's not spooky enough to be an effective ghost story either. In fact, the seams are showing in a way that suggests that director Hwang himself was a little confused about what to do with this generic hybrid.
     The film starts promisingly enough. On a sleepy Sunday (clue!), German lit professor Su-Yeong (Jeong Jin-Yeong) is asked by his students to talk about his first love. Apparently, Korean college kids are a lot more forward with their professors these days, but nevertheless, the affable Su-Young happily obliges. Immediately, we are transported back to the days of his youth, and the role is passed on to a younger actor, Jeong Kyeong-Ho. While attending a German literature class, Su-Young becomes interested in a quirky classmate (Kim Min-Seon), whom he later befriends. Despite their budding friendship, she never reveals her name, instead going by the alias "Pippi." The two seem to bond in these early moments, but it's of little consequence. In short order, Pippi commits suicide.
     And that's when things get weird as Su-Young begins to see Pippi all around campus despite the fact that she is unquestionably deceased. Su-Young never utters the phrase, "I see dead people," but he might as well, considering what follows. For reasons initially unclear, the ghostly Pippi points Su-Young in the direction of Su-Ji (Cha Soo-Yeon), a weird, socially inept shut-in who just so happens to live in a scary mansion. Su-Young cheerfully takes on the tutoring job, and despite Su-Ji's utterly bizarre behavior, the two of them "fall in love," as plot twist after plot twist unfolds right before the audience's eyes.
     As suggested earlier, For Eternal Hearts seems like a film in search of a direction. There's a gesture toward the increasingly popular "pure love" subgenre of romance films, particularly in its nostalgic look at a time long gone by. The main problem here is that the two leads have zero chemistry. There isn't really a romance per se - unless being in the same room constitutes falling in love. Sadly, without a believable central romance, the whole conceit falls apart.
     Even worse, in the latter stages, For Eternal Hearts seems to be on a mission to out-twist The Sixth Sense. But whereas the M. Night Shymalan film had a definite heft to its last minute revelation, the secrets revealed in Hwang Kyoo-Deok's film are either obvious or altogether pointless. Even worse, the ghost story aspects don't really hold up upon further examination. There are no real rules guiding what occurs supernaturally - in fact, the major turning point in the film comes out of nowhere and isn't supported by anything that precedes it. And considering that this transformative arc requires that we believe that these two characters are truly, madly, deeply in love makes the final outcome all the less credible.
     The highlight of the film is perhaps lead actor Jeong Kyeong-Ho. He effectively portrays Su-Young's youthful naiveté, delivering a performance that is both likeable and occasionally humorous. Kim Min-Seon is lively as the quickly departed Pippi, but unfortunately, her character is barely developed and she eventually takes a backseat to Cha Soo-Yeon's bland Su-Ji. The other actors aren't terrible, but they more like automatons moving from point A to point B as the plot dictates.
     For Eternal Hearts might hold some appeal for pure romance fans who have a serious taste for the supernatural or it could be interesting for those wishing to reminisce about the turbulent political climate of early eighties Korea. But for most, For Eternal Hearts won't resonate. Like the ghost contained within its narrative, it shall remain elusive and as insubstantial. (Calvin McMillin, 2007)

Availability: DVD (South Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
2 Audio Commentaries, Stills Gallery, Music Video, Trailers
  Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen