Between 1950 and 1953 war raged between North and South Korea, supported on the one side by China and the Soviet Union, and on the other by the United States and the UN. Several million died. No peace treaty was ever signed.
Of the numerous films on this conflict made during the 1950s, we have chosen two by World War II veteran Samuel Fuller: The Steel Helmet and Fixed Bayonets!, both filmed in 1951, and one other, slightly later, Men in War by Anthony Mann. These tense, dry, precise and remarkably staged films, focus less on the reasons for this war than they do on war itself and those who wage war.
A few years later, America’s paranoia was masterfully described by John Frankenheimer in The Manchurian Candidate, through the character of an officer and former Korean war hero, manipulated from afar by the Reds. It was not until 1970 and Robert Altman’s M.A.S.H. that this conflict would be blown apart with cruel wit.
The 38th parallel, the uncompromising border between the two Koreas, is described in South Korean films as a scar that will not heal. The explicitly titled The Brotherhood of War is a violent and lyrical saga that deals with the very heart of the Korean drama. The Net places back to back the North’s cynicism and the South’s fear of any type of foreign intrusion from the North of the peninsula. Park Chan-Wook, one of the greatest of today’s South Korean filmmakers, tries to reconcile North and South in Joint Security Area, a fascinating thriller made in 2000.
In homage to Claude Lanzmann, we have chosen to screen Napalm in which the French filmmaker recounts, with his exceptional sense of narration, his love affair with a North Korean woman in 1958.
Off the beaten track, in 2008 American filmmaker Jim Finn made an exhilarating film on North Korea, The Juche Idea, audaciously mixing documentary with fiction, propaganda, reality and restitution. The same filmmaker will be presenting a true curiosity, an extremely rare North Korean film made in 1960, On the Railway.
The diversity of perspectives and genres on offer here may facilitate a better understanding of this fratricidal war, last vestige of the Cold War.
FIXED BAYONETS ! , by Samuel FULLER (1951) - USA
THE STEEL HELMET, by Samuel FULLER (1951) - USA
MEN IN WAR , by Anthony MANN (1957) - USA
M.A.S.H, by Robert ALTMAN (1970) - USA
BROTHERHOOD OF WAR, by Je-gyu KANG (2004) - South Korea
THE NET, by Ki-duk KIM (2016) - South `Korea
JOINT SECURITY AREA, by Chan-wook PARK (2000) - South Korea
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, by John FRANKENHEIMER (1962) - USA
THE JUCHE IDEA, by Jim FINN (2008) - USA
NAPALM, by Claude LANZMANN (2017) - France
ON THE RAILWAY, by Kim Song GYO (1960) - North Korea