Ditto (2000) 110 minutes
Director: Kim Jeong-kweon
Main cast: Kim Ha-neul, Yoo Ji-tae
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea and the University of the Philippines Film Institute presented the Korean Film Festival 2007 with the theme “Varied Colors of Korean Cinema”. Five films were shown from September 25-27 at the UPFI Cine Adarna. These are Ditto (2000), Joint Security Area (2000), My Heart (2000), Taeguk-Gi (2004), and Libera Me (2000). Among these, I was able to watch Ditto.
Ditto (Donggam) is a film about a female university student, who talks through a ham radio to a male schoolmate, who lives 21 years away. The story revolves around the relationship that develops between two students, So-eun (Kim Ha-neul) and In (Yoo Ji-tae), who connect via a ham radio one night. However, when they decide to meet on campus and miss each other, it is discovered that they are separated by 21 years, with So-eun in 1979 and In living in the present day, 2000. Eventually, they become comfortable with the supernatural phenomenon that has brought them together, as well as their communication. She shares her friendship with her best friend Seon-mi (Kim Min-ju) and her infatuation for fellow student Dong-heui (Park Yong-woo), while he talks about the unwanted attention he receives from fellow co-ed (Ha Ji-weon). However, as the on-air relationship deepens, it is revealed that their ties go far deeper than ever imagined, In being the son of the married Seon-mi and Dong-heui in the present.
Ditto, for me, is a very good film. Though some films came up with an almost same plot (Filipino film Moments of Love, Hollywood film The Lake House, and Frequency which was released in cinemas the same year as Ditto) I very much liked Ditto, how the main characters meet, find out how they are connected, become friends, then eventually find out that they’re years and years apart.
Technically, the cinematography is quite a help in making the film altogether great. The director was able to draw a distinction between the two periods. The very effective example of it in the film is the scene when they are supposed to meet in front of the clock tower. So-eun is smiling while waiting for him on a very good climate, it’s a sunny day. In, on the other hand, is frowning, not because of her, but because he is standing under heavy rain, without an umbrella.
Aside from the cinematography, the music or soundtrack is another efficient aspect in the film. It is effective in a sense that it succeeds in adding up to the emotions stirring on each scene, and adding up on the reaction of the audience as well. An example of this is when they eventually meet at the end of the film. Sure, even if there was no background music, the scene will still leave you on the edge of your seat waiting for the reactions of the two main characters, but with the music, the excitement doubled or even tripled.
The theme of the film, like the other films shown in Korea that same year, was love across time. In Ditto, at least for me, the attack of the director and the writer is a stand out. Yes, it is about two university students, but the film never forgets that they both belong in different times and thus, societies. For that, it also talks about the history of South Korea because of the fact that So-eun is in the year 1979. With that, you see how the students at that time are affected by the political problem they have and how they constantly fight for what they believe as shown in a lot of scenes. As for the year 2000, In is living in a high-tech period. You also get to see the difference of the present-day students as compared to the students of the past. There is a scene wherein some of his classmates are talking about being inside a bar and even seeing his girl friend drunk.
The lead stars’ performances are effective. You are able to see the difference of their characters not just in the period they are living in but also in their traits. In, who is living in the present year, is always smiling and seems to be a happy-go-lucky person. So-eun, in the period of South Korea’s political instability, always looks serious even when she is smiling. Kim Ha-neul, the actress playing the role of So-eun, is already known here in the Philippines for starring in a few Korean TV series, one of which as I could remember, Stained Glass, was shown on ABS-CBN. And based on her TV series and other films, you can see that her performance is really effective.
What I like the most about the film is the fact that it does not use stereotypical elements, like a happy ending for the two main characters together. Well, to start from, the two do not even have a romance or love affair. They just become comfortable with each other, forming friendship-and friendship alone.
As the plot slowly unfolds, the story becomes more and more complicated for the two of them. In the start of the film, you would think that their communication is just coincidence. But then, at the latter part, the film tells you that they are really destined to meet each other, their destinies are irreversibly entangled.
And as it even gets complex, So-eun eventually realizes that her decisions and actions should be done correctly because its consequence would affect In significantly. During this part, you would get to admire her for sacrificing things so important for her-her friendship with Seon-mi and her love for Dong-heui-all for the sake of the present. Although upset of the experience she has in the past, it molds her and becomes an important part of her that helps her into what she has become in the present.
As for In, he doesn’t easily find out who So-eun really is with regards to his parents until the latter part of the film so you would find yourself telling him not to be too happy about his parents’ love story because at that time they still aren’t lovers and it’s just a part of So-eun’s way of avoiding to talk about these two important persons in her life because of the hurtful truth she finds out from In. But then, you get to see the effect of their friendship in him until the end of the film. At the start of their communication, he starts doing what he doesn’t usually do, like researching to know what happened in 1979. Aside from that, he also starts learning from the past, understanding the present, and appreciating both.
But like any other films, this one has, at least for me, one flaw. Of course as a viewer, you would want them to see each other in the present if there is a chance. Well it finally happens, but So-eun still looks so young, the same as how she looks when she is just a student, the only difference is the eyeglasses she’s wearing and her outfit. So you would tell yourself this truly is fictional.
Although that part is quite disappointing, the whole film itself is indeed impressive. The more important elements of the film should not be taken for granted. I would recommend this to practically anyone who can watch a movie where they have to delay disbelief, but especially anyone into time-travel or alternate time-lines, as this is, in my opinion, one of the best movies made, pertaining to this theme.