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Winter 2006

Fall 2005

Blood Rain

Tony Williams

In a 2004 collection of memoirs edited by Wong Ain-ling, deceased veteran Hong Kong director Chang Cheh (1924-2000) expresses optimism about his industry's survival into the twenty-first century by emphasizing the importance of maintaining its distinctive characteristics. At the same time, he also mentions the role of outside traditions when he developed his artistry in Shaw Brothers studios.1 Chang points out that for a time Korean cinema "used to be more advanced than Hong Kong cinema, especially works of director Shin Sang-ok" and that "Hong Kong cinema took off as a result of combining Japanese efficiency with more advanced Western operations."2 Korean cinema is currently enjoying a similar form of renaissance to that of the Hong Kong "New Wave" a decade ago while its former national rival is still struggling with economic conditions and adapting to the challenging era of intensive globalization. Although Chang realizes the nature of such external challenges he also recognizes that 9/11 ended the Hong Kong dream of a breakthrough into an American cinema that has now become nationally introverted. He urges instead a dynamic and resilient appropriation of national cultural traditions.

"Who could have predicted the 9-11 incident? Yet it has such a repercussion in local cinema. Cinema rises and falls with the society. With Hong Kong economy in recession, local cinema, too, finds it hard to rebound. But Hong Kong has not lost its resilience and in recent years, local cinema has show signs of vitality. 9-11 is a big blow but it has at least awakened some people from their American dream. To survive local cinema has to depend on Hong Kong, not America."3

Korean cinema has recently shown such resilience in terms of integrating elements of its national culture in films such as Kang Je-Gyu's Shiri and Tae Guk Gi (2004) which have reached Western audiences via film festivals and limited international distribution. At the same time, it has appropriated elements of Western technology and narrative formulas for its own particular cultural concerns, more often than not interrogating Korea's recent past in the film version of Ahn Jungho's White Badge (1992 )which deals with the devastating nature of South Korean involvement in the Vietnam War and the more supernaturally inclined R-Point (2004). Since the days of the Korean War and the following succession of dictatorial governments, criticism of the status quo was often taboo. But, fortunately, restraints are now loosening and a number of films have appeared containing muted, but still resonant, criticisms of political corruption using the historical past as a convenient framework. Kim Dae Sung's Blood Rain (2005) is one such notable example. Set in a remote Korean island during 1808, it deals with the mysterious nature of a number of murders which appear supernatural in origin but actually turn out to be politically motivated until a surprise ending places everything in question. The film also combines Western cinematic techniques such as an enigmatic introduction and detective narrative flashback sequences with an Eastern "Chinese box structure" of convoluted and interlocking narratives leading to a final revelation. Although set in the past, it contains devastating implications for the contemporary world of its production.

Blood Rain is set in a particular era of the Korean Chosun or Yi Dynasty in the reign of Emperor Sunjo (1800-1834). During this time, the "Hermit Kingdom" faced the challenge of Western ideas and Roman Catholic incursions into national culture. Due to the early age of Sunjo at his accession, the court was ruled by Queen Regent Kim who exercised similar power to the Dowager Empress in the latter years of China's Ching Dynasty. From 1801 onwards, she engaged in governmental reaction against Roman Catholic propaganda on the peninsula and gave free reign to anti-Christian prejudices existing within her political faction. Korea had also experienced invasions by Japanese and Ching Dynasty forces during 1592-98 and 1627-1636 and rejected any further dealings with outsiders particularly if they were associated with foreign ideas, commerce, and technology that appeared to threaten the self-enclosed kingdom. During the next two years, some three to four hundred people perished in a purge of Catholics, among who were eleven high officials. Agents went from village to village in search of suspected Catholics in a manner reminiscent of the activities of America's House Un-American Activities Committee during the late 1940s and 1950s. Persecution reached its peak in 1802 and officially ended with the death of the Queen Regent in 1805 with the young king's father-in-law ruling in his place. However, the persecutions left a dark stain in Korea's national history and they would resume later in the century.

At the same time, government corruption was rife with officials often extorting money from people by way of excessive taxes and other charges. In 1811, it led to an uprising in the north by those disaffected against the government.4 The Yi Dynasty (1392-1910) was a highly stratified society dominated by the yangban class with everybody knowing their place. But social changes were beginning to affect Korea at the very beginning of the nineteenth century. Slavery was finally abolished in 1801 resulting in further dissolution of barriers separating masters from slaves. Interest in western technology began at the same time.5 Certain reforms had begun by enlightened monarchs between1724-1800 which further destabilized traditional rigid class barriers. Some reforms involved early attempts at equal opportunity" so that men of different classes could contribute to society rather than those belonging to the same elite group. But, at the same time, factional struggles, palace intrigues, nepotism, and tax burdens affecting the poor hindered the development of these reforms.6  Blood Rain 's Korea of 1808 reveals a country divided between those who wished to keep it a "hermit kingdom" ruled by traditional values and other more progressive figures affected by modern ideas who wished to engage in reforms necessary for the country to take its place as an international trade competitor with the outside world. During the nineteenth century, Korean writers were certainly interested in enlightenment ideals.7 Officials opposed to the "hermit kingdom" ideology would also see the benefit of outside ideas. But they would be regarded as threats by the establishment. This historical context dominates the narrative of Blood Rain .

As Bruce Cummings notes, the Chosun era represented a period of decline in Korean history during which "Korea was the least commercial of the East Asian nations."8 Although areas such as Kaesong represented some form of economic development, this was limited in contrast to the flourishing coastal trade seen during the Koryo dynasty (918-1392).

"The flinty scholar officials who ran the Chosun state, however, wanted to nip commerce in the bud everywhere (although they failed now and then). Broad commerce would mean less control, the rise of upstarts, alternatives for the peasantry, freedom for the slave. Somewhat as in their imposition of order and ritual on the family unit, these ideologies wanted to make sure that their caste-like social order would find no exit through the marketplace. Trade with China was something of an exception, carried on as part of tribute missions; with Japan, however, the instinct was to constrict trade to a bare minimum. Traders on Tsushima Island, the only venue, frequently importuned the Koreans to boost existing limits on trade (fifty ships a year, so much rice per year, etc.), usually to no avail. One of the key reasons why late-twentieth-century Korean commerce developed so strongly is thus the demise of the yangban aristocracy, as the interests displayed the virtues."9

Korean society was slowly changing in terms of the gradual infiltration of Western thought and technology but the early nineteenth witnessed a major retrogression on all levels resulting in a determined movement towards cultural and economic isolation in which Koreans were advised to find their real place in the world within their own borders. As the closing words of a poem "Letting Go the Wild Geese" by Hong Yang-ho (1724-1802) stated, "Go nowhere; find your place within this land."10 Blood Rain reveals the personal and political problems inherent within this retrogressive philosophy governing the very national ideology of Korea as a "hermit kingdom." Any form of retreat becomes impossible in a film whose dark vision encompasses both past and present.

The pre-credit sequence begins with a nighttime shot of a village on Donghwa Island situated off the coat of mainland Korea. It then cuts to a mid-close up shot of a solitary female pursued by four men. A shot is fired and the woman falls into the sea. The following image reveals another mid-close up of her head beneath the waves before it descends below the frame. Then blood swirls from the bullet wound in her head to form the title credits "Blood Rain" after bloody rain falls on to the image leading to the dissolution of the title. This opening sequence resembles those common pre-credit shots well known to Western audiences from film and television. It is obviously designed to create an enigma in the minds of viewers in terms of Blood Rain 's deliberate relationship to a detective story. Western associations are further emphasized by certain elements within Jo Young-wook's musical score which resembles reworkings of the melodramatic compositions of the nineteenth century composer Sergei Rachmaninov. But these features are not designed to ensure international accessibility in terms of global theatrical distribution. Instead, they are inherent signifiers highly relevant to the film's theme of the competing and contradictory forces of different influences affecting Korean culture at a time of historical transition.

Jo Young-wook's melodramatic score has an inherent relationship with the diverse nature of the melodramatic imagination which exists in the film in several important layers. David Lusted describes the history of melodrama as a suppressed cultural form in terms paralleling the narrative structure of Blood Rain which involves aspects of repression on the political, cultural, and sexual levels.

"Borrowing from more respectable forms around it made melodramas a cultural magpie. From tragedy, it takes a dystopian view of human society and human weakness, but melodrama changes its protagonist from one with social power to one with none, the lowliest of lowly subjects. From comedy, it takes the idea that tragedy of life is inherently comic but, unlike comedy, refuses to accept the social conditions it find itself in.From romance, it takes the idea of desire as its narrative drive and courtship as the ultimate celebration of human relationships. From realism, it insists on the material nature of conflict in the social world but makes it less of a cerebral than an emotional experience. Empathetic, sensation and spectacular staging provide the context for the emotional extremes and formal disparity of melodrama's aesthetic; what Christine Gledhill in Home is Where the Heart is ( 1987) poignantly calls melodrama's `way of imagining' its contemporary social world."11

Set in the historical past, Blood Rain also imagines its contemporary social world but with certain distinctive differences from the Western model cited above. For example, it contains no comic elements but instead substitutes a supernatural sub-text that reinforces the brutal perspective of its narrative rather than contradicting it. As will be shown, Blood Rain 's material and supernatural elements exist in a creative and dialectical manner throughout the film. Furthermore, although the performances are less excessive than their western melodramatic counterparts, they also exhibit a particular cultural perspective of restrained tension involving the recognition of personally devastating and social contradictions that are as traumatic as anything within the western tradition. Although the film's chief protagonist mainland investigator Lee Wong-gyu (Cha Seung-won) belongs to the powerful yangban class, the revelation he discovers towards the end of the film will make him feel as "powerless as the lowliest of lowly subjects" in terms of the collapse of his cherished beliefs in the honor and justice of the system to which he belongs. He retains his social position but will no longer believe in its supposed superior values any longer. Ironically, the last action he does in the film is dropping a love token made by the female victim seen in the opening scenes. The very rigid caste nature of his society has made any expression of spontaneous pure love impossible at any level. 

Blood Rain is the second film by director Kim Dae-seung whose previous work was the comedy Bungee Jumping Of Their Own. Prior to this, he had worked as assistant director to Im Kwon-taek on several period films. The screenplay by Kim Song-jae represents a remarkable achievement of intellectual construction by merging the enigmatic elements of western detective fiction with the Chinese box structure of eastern fiction making the film a distant Eastern cousin to Dashiell Hammet's Red Harvest (1928).

Blood Rain 's opening sequence has an inherent relationship to the following one which begins with a day time shot of a busy village wharf actively engaged in commerce. Situated on an island with favorable conditions suitable for developing a paper making industry with trade routes leading to China, this traditional looking village is very much a part of a thriving, but inhumane, capitalist enterprise far ahead of anything occurring on the Korean mainland with its population contaminated by behavior more akin to what William Blake witnessed in those dark satanic mills of nineteenth century industrial England than any form of humanitarian values whether Eastern or Western. A woman rebukes her family who are feeding a small child. "Stop feeding her. We will have nothing left". A worker falls from a wharf. Although retrieved from the water by his fellow workers, his boss hits him and pushes him back again angered at the destruction of the paper he carries. "These cost more than any of you. Subtract it from his salary. If there is anything left to pay, I'll subtract it from your work." When the boat destined for China catches fire later that evening, he is more concerned with retrieving the paper than the possible loss of human life.

Both sequences begin with shots of the village by night and day immediately following them with different images of brutality: the unknown female's murder and mercantile practices that barely differ from the slavery the Korean villagers have recently been liberated from. Kim Dae-seung suggests that both events are somehow connected. The film will eventually unravel the mystery of this pre-credit sequence to reveal the nature of the homicide as social and not just individual.

Even the world of village religion now becomes involved in commerce since the female shaman makes a prayer for the village's economic welfare. But when, earlier, mentally distressed villager (whom it will later be revealed is the one person who shows any sign of regret for past events) disrupts the community by announcing that "blood rain has fallen and "The commissioner is coming" the director cuts to an exchange of looks between the son of the local chief yangban, Kim In-kwon and worker Doo-ho, the relevance of which becomes revealed later in the film. At the same time, the presence of a drunken worker disrupts the oppressive order of this community where people exist as economic units in a manner which Karl Marx would later document in his Capital volumes. One worker threatens the reprobate. "Don't think we can keep feeding you for ever." However, the latter figure is clearly blackmailing this community. "For the occasional coin, I can keep silent."

Aged aristocrat Lord Kim Chi-seong appears at the ceremony, a man who lives according to the structured order of his class and denies any form of human feeling. He is the person responsible for making the villagers work in conditions resembling slavery as he holds to the old class values of his system. When the villagers acclaim his "benevolent rule", he angrily dismisses it as disloyalty. "No rule, except the King." But a disruptive event occurs during the shaman's evening ritual when the voice of deceased former official Lord Kang speaks through her, unsettling all present. "Have you been living long enough for tearing my body to shreds? Your blood shall soak the ground and your flesh ripped to the bone. " A fire breaks on a ship containing valuable consignments of paper destined for tribute to the mainland. The dead body of the drunken worker Jung hok-soon is later discovered. This is the first instance of the film's dark conjunction of material and supernatural worlds co-existing within the narrative.

Blood Rain then begins five narrative segments, each divided up to parallel the individual days in the past that Kang and his family underwent their respective individual executions finally culminating in the dismemberment of Kang himself. These narrative segments frequently use flashbacks revealing the role of past events which have determined the present. A ship arrives from the mainland containing a seasick Emissary and Lieutenant Lee Wong-gyu. The Emissary remembers In's father, Chi-seong, as a "good, righteous man" from his days in the guard of honor in the royal court. However, Chi-seong's days of glory are now over since he has been banished to this remote island and no longer receives any royal summons to appear at court. He obviously fell out of favor with the court faction that gained the upper hand following the death of the Queen Regent. Later that evening, Wong-gyu reveals to In-kwon that he is the son of the late Lord Lee Ji-soong whose fatherly attributes had much in common with Chi-seong. Wong-gyu remembers his father as a very strict man whose frequently set him mathematical riddles and reprimanded him constantly. In-kwon also reveals that he has something else in common with Wyong-gyu when he supplies an answer to the mathematical problem described by his aristocratic counterpart. Blood Rain will later reveal that both sons are victims of a rigid patriarchal society whose codes of conduct are by no means honorable.

As the film proceeds, Wong-gyu discovers that each murder follows the pattern of execution decreed by the Inquisitor who condemned Kang and his family of Catholic leanings. He also learns much about the favorable location of Donghwa Island, a community economically dependent on the paper mill begun by Kang and now passed on to Chi-seong. The community not only works to fulfill trade agreements with the Korean Mainland and China but also has to provide a heavy bi-annual tribute to the court. Failure to do this will result in punishment of both mill owner and workers. Religion has now become a part of the economy as witnessed in the opening scene where the female shaman prays for a good harvest, efficient paper production, and bountiful fishing. Kang had begun the mill with the support of a court official who perished in the Dowager Queen's purge of Catholics. He also was more progressive than his yangban counterparts by providing low interest loans to villagers and newcomers as well as adopting the orphaned Doo-ho and teaching him the skills of paper mill dyeing and art. However, none of the villagers spoke in Kang's defense during his accusation, the reason being that their debts would expire after his execution. Like the Continental Op in Red Harvest , Wyong-gyu encounters a capitalist society that has contaminated both bosses and workers.

So far, Wyong-gyu remains committed to the ideals of honor and justice which he believes are firm pillars of his social class. He questions why the unknown Inquisitor never followed the established rules of legal procedure but condemned Kang and his family to death on the island rather than delivering them to the Royal Court for final judgment. His investigations lead him to suspect that Chi-seong may be the guilty party on the grounds of economic gain. However, during his interview with the ailing older man, Wyong-gyu discovers other reactionary motivations. Chi-seong detested Kang's liberal tendencies seeing his rival's modern methods as a threat to the rigid social practices of his class. As he informs his son in a flashback, he denies any form of duty on the part of the upper classes towards the poor. "If we help them, they will demand more next year. The weak will become strong and society will be divided. If left too late, the land will be punished." However, he will live to witness a different type of punishment before he dies.

Wyong-gyu believes that the shaman heard a gunshot one night and not a thunderclap as she believed. While he engages in a search for a missing flint gun on the island, he discovers the body of Kang's daughter, So-yeon, who was supposedly executed seven years before by being plunged into boiling water, the fate suffered by the second victim on the island. It is not long before he understands why Kang waited seven years to take revenge. Someone had engineered So-yeon's escape and used the body of a plague victim in her place. During the past three years So-yeon regularly returned to the island disguised as a seaman with a drug intended to alleviate her rescuer's rare medical condition. Ironically, this drug was a Japanese invention abused by rich aristocrats to rape females by doping them beforehand. This is the first indication given in the film about the rotten aristocratic social structure on the mainland. It will not be too long before Wyong-gyu learns of its relevance to his own personal situation.

Eventually, Wyong-gyu discovers that In-kwon was So-yeon's lover. After her murder by the guilty men who had informed on her father, In-kwon began his revenge on those responsible. However, not only does Wyong-gu find out that his own father was the Inquisitor who illegally condemned Kang and his family to death but also that every person on the island was an informant. Kang's association with a purged Catholic nobleman led to his arrest and execution on trumped-up charges manufactured by the fathers of Wyong-gyu and In-kwon. Lee Ji-soong obviously belonged to the Dowager Queen's anti-Catholic faction and used the 1801 Terror for his own political advantage while Chi-seong saw this as an opportunity to acquire the paper mill and plunge its workers into the demeaning type of slavery witnessed in the second sequence of the film. In-kwon uses the prophecy concerning Kang's return and "blood rain" to avenge So-yeon's murder. Kang became a "sacrificial victim" of the island's class war. The villagers eventually use Doo-ho in the same bloody manner. But their attempts to escape justice will be in vain.

Realizing that Doo-ho is the last living informant, Wyong-gyu rides to the mill to save him from the dismemberment suffered by Kang. Although Wyong-gyu has quarantined every island horse and ox that could be used for such a gruesome process, he discovers that In-kwon intends to use mill machinery according to the mathematical techniques of Lee Ji-soong to fulfill his final revenge. Quite obviously, In-kwon could not declare his love for the daughter of an executed official who was also sentenced to death. His father's adherence to rigid social customs made this impossible. Doo-ho had also fallen in love with So-yeon. But he encountered the anger of a father who could not reconcile modern ideas involving equality between classes with his aristocratic status of a father who could not bear to see his daughter marry beneath her. Although belonging to different classes, In-kwon and Doo-ho are both victims of contradictory tensions affecting the classes at this particular point of Korean history. The angry Doo-ho betrayed a person who wished to develop his talents. In-kwon can only continue his romantic relationship with So-yeon in secrecy. But the aftermath is catastrophic. Donghwa Island reverts back into a type of feudal slavery that had virtually disappeared on the mainland.

Despite his traumatic discovery of his father's guilt, Wyong-gyu attempts to persuade In-kwon to desist from final revenge, surrender Doo-ho into his custody, and return to a mainland court which will allow him to take a more appropriate revenge on the villagers who allowed Kang and his family to die. By this time In-kwon has regressed into insanity. He criticizes Ji-soong's involvement and accuses Wyong-gyu of trying to cover up the incident by using force to cover up his family shame. After stating that Wyong-gyu's arrival on the island was predetermined by Kang's avenging spirit, he forces his rival to shoot him with the very same flint gun used to kill So-yeon.

Although Wyong-gyu rescues Doo-ho, he can not save him from the villagers who execute him as a sacrificial victim to avoid Kang's revenge. After they hack Doo-ho into bloody pieces, the prophesied blood rain falls upon them plunging many into madness and suicide. Although they intend to make Cho-seong another sacrificial victim, the old man escapes them by hanging himself after witnessing the blood rain. When Wong-gyu staggers back into the mill, a grindstone starts moving mysteriously behind him. He then experiences a ghostly vision of workers inside the mill, a vision which may derive from the past but one having future consequences in terms of the inescapable arrival of a capitalist hell which will certainly dominate the twentieth century.

Several reviewers have criticized a supernatural ending which supposedly contradicts the material elements in Blood Rain 's narrative structure. Up to this point, everything appears logical and rational. In-kwon has used Kang's prophecy to avenge himself on those who killed So-yeon. But since he did nothing to prevent the original crime he is as deeply implicated as anyone else on Donghwa Island. Like Wyong-gyu he has a guilty father whom he dare not oppose and suffers as a result. He has engineered the entire course of incidents on the island seven years after the death of Kang. However, the fulfillment of Kang's prophecy occurs in a manner even he did not realize. Prior to the final encounter in the mill, the villagers had decapitated chickens and smeared the blood as warning signs outside. In this society, religion has become marginalized and co-opted into the dominant order. However, the female shaman is one of the few sympathetic characters in the film and it is she who is really in tune with what is really happening despite Wyong-gyu's initial suspicions concerning her involvement. She represents a female order which is marginalized within that society and her only active role exists within a rigidly proscribed social order. Her community is a very sick and violent society which needs to heal itself spiritually rather than economically. The appearance of the blood rain may not follow any logical and rational patterns but it functions as a "return of the repressed" in a narrative protesting against a corrupt society beginning to follow the deadly practices of western capitalism no matter how much it attempts to conceal them by traditional social values. Wyong-gyu's vision of those ghostly passive workers in the mill encompasses past, present, and future. Like In-kwon, has learned rational and mathematical principles from his corrupt father. But these principles can easily be used for violent purposes in the same way as Kang's desires to bring western techniques of paper making into an island community to benefit the villagers economically and socially soon become reversed and contaminated by Chi-seong's authoritarian rule.

The arrival of the blood rain is not logical or rational. Yet it expresses protest against the violent activities of a brutal authoritarian class as well as revenge on those oppressed workers who once had an opportunity to experience better lives but instead took another economically selfish direction that ultimately enslaved them. Blood Rain can be read as Wyong-gyu's own personal tragedy. But that would limit the film to emphasize the individual dilemma of a figure from a privileged class. By contrast, the supernatural overtones of the blood rain form a key component of the film's particular type of melodramatic imagination. Employing the form of a detective narrative with the use of flashbacks, but differing from its western counterparts, Blood Rain 's divergence into the realms of a supernatural explanation appears to contradict its rational detective narrative structure. But it may actually represent a logical cultural type of protest against class oppression involving both masters and workers who choose to be complicit in their own subjugation. Like all good melodramas, Blood Rain is both tragic and melodramatic seeing individual dilemmas within social contexts. The non-logical climax of Blood Rain makes sense if viewed within certain dimensions of the melodramatic imagination especially in a society where fusion between different levels of meaning do not raise the type of problems affecting Western interpretation. Melodramas may have unhappy as well as happy endings. They involve flexible aesthetics drawing upon a wide range of narrative possibilities. As Robert Lang notes, "the melodramatic imagination is profoundly moral.clear notions of good and evil prevail.melodrama seeks to reveal a moral universe in operation, even where it is unable to show good triumphing."12 A moral universe does appear victorious at the climax of Blood Rain with the punishment of the greedy villagers and the vindictive aristocrat who has collaborated with Wyong-gyu's father in violating the very codes of honor and justice that his class should have adhered to. Furthermore, despite the logical and mathematical rules employed by Wyong-gyu and Im-kwon throughout the film, they are overturned by the role of the supernatural world. Blood Rain reveals that these aspects of Western rationality may be used for evil, as well as positive, purposes in very much the same manner as the introduction of Western technology into Korean society. But the realms of nature and the spiritual world react in protest against these detrimental changes.

The film ends with Wyong-gyu returning home as the ineffective Emissary exhibits the same type of demeaning seasickness introducing his character in the opening scenes. Wyong-gyu can never trust his social class ever again. He has instead witnessed several events that have undermined his value structure for ever, the most formative of which was the illogical appearance of the blood rain that announced the presence of an oppositional realm of divine justice that the film's oppressive class structure attempted to deny. Peter Brooks has noted that one of the chief features of the melodramatic imagination turns "less on the triumph of good over evil than on making the world morally legible."13 The blood rain of the film's title certainly does this. Heroic agency becomes ineffective. Instead, Wyong-gyu experiences several revelations concerning the role of the past and the dangers of a capitalist future that will affect his country long after his death. Like many Chinese and Japanese films exploring the tensions between past history and contemporary developments, Blood Rain offers no solution. That is left to audiences who experience the contradictions of their own present societies in a similar manner to the characters in a film torn between conflicting social values in the opening years of the nineteenth century. Blood Rain is a recent Korean. Although it should not be read as a melodrama in western terms, it does contain relevant features of the type of contending discourses that Jacky Bratton finds in the genre's development paralleling the narrative structure of Blood Rain that western audiences may find difficult to engage with. She comments that historical forms of melodramatic storytelling engaged in "`an active, lucid confrontation' with the loss of sacred certainties and deliberately and repeatedly to reassemble a moral structure from the debris of desacralised signification."14 Blood Rain attempts to do this in its own particular manner ending in a supernatural revelation whose excessive nature may defy secular logic but having its own form of social morality. It is a film appropriating many traditions but one finally reflecting the nature of its own national culture.


  1. Chang Cheh: A Memoir .Ed. Wong Ain-ling. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Archive, 2004, 120- 124. See also Stephen Teo, "Shaws' Wuxia Films: The Macho Self-Fashioning of Chang Cheh."  The Shaw Screen: A Preliminary Study . Ed. Wong Ain-ling. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Film Archive, 2003, 145-172.
  2. Op. cit, 157.
  3. Op. cit, 123.
  4. See Hulbert's History of Korea. Volume II . Ed. Clarence Norwood Weems. New York: Hillary House, 1962, 190-192.
  5. See Ki Baik-see. A New History of Korea . Trans. Edward W. Wagner and Edward J. Schultz. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1984, 251-259, 267.
  6. See James B. Palais, Politics and Policy in Traditional Ko rea. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1975, 24-25, 46-47; Andrew C. Nahim, Korea: Tradition and Transformation: A History of the Korean People . Elizabeth, New Jersey: Hollym International Corporation, 1988, 130-131. Citing several Korean and Japanese historical sources, Palais, 48 also confirms that Dowager Queen Kim used the 1801 persecution of Catholics as a means of eliminating her political enemies.
  7. See Li Baik-see, 267. Palais, 51 notes conflicts between merit and class status during this period. "The ideal of recruitment based on national criteria of talent and merit was never abandoned in the Yi dynasty, but it had always been subordinated in practice to discrimination on the basis of social status. Within he limits of legitimate status discrimination, however, the search for the talented could be pursued." The murdered official in Blood Rain clearly went beyond these official borders.
  8. Bruce Cummings, Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History . New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997, 81.
  9. Op. cit, 81-82.
  10. Op. cit, 84-85.
  11. David Lusted, The Western. London: Pearson/Longman , 2003, 65.
  12. Robert Lang, American Film Melodrama: Griffith, Vidor, Minnelli . New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989, 18.
  13. Peter Brooks,  The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976, 4.
  14. Jacky Bratton, The Contending Discourses of Melodrama." Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen. London: British Film Institute Publishing, 1994, 48.