Kim Taeyang’s film Mimang features a series of short, momentary encounters between a man, a woman, and people they know that they know can’t last.
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The central recurring image in Kim Taeyang’s feature film debut Mimang is of two people, shot from behind, standing at a crosswalk in Seoul, waiting for the light to turn green. They’re operating on borrowed time, running into old friends and remembering past lives — until the light changes colour, and they must return to their lives. It’s a film about ships passing in the night. Over several years, two former college friends, and probably ex-lovers, bump into each other for a few unexpected moments.
She’s (Lee Myungha) a film commentator, and when they first momentarily reunite, he’s (Ha Seongguk) about to begin urban sketching lessons, which will lead to an unexpected career doing just that. Later, he meets his partner (Jung Suji); she meets a man (Park Bongjun) who wants to become her partner. Finally, they reunited again, now with a third college friend (Baek Seungjin). It’s on the occasion of a funeral for a fourth friend — and arguably, also for the friendship group of yore.
A story the man told the woman years ago comes up in conversation because she remembers it better than he does. His partner today knows other parts of the story, also recounted to her by him, that he’s long since forgotten. The encounters mirror each other in their topics of conversation and their mundanity. Everyone talks about a statue due for demolition, but it’s still around years later when they meet again. The city changes, and yet it doesn’t; they change and don’t.
Melancholic encounters in the film Mimang
The encounters are melancholic, which gets amplified with each new one as we realize how fleeting they all are. In Mimang, running into an old friend is less an opportunity to start something new than to be reminded of how something old has ended when you weren’t even paying attention. They all recognize this — the film commentator perhaps most of all. She adds detours to their walks or impromptu cigarette breaks that draw the moment out.
Each encounter is a glimpse of what might have been, what could be, or what can no longer be. But as time passes, the possibilities dwindle. These aren’t necessarily sad people, but Taeyang catches them in sad moments of reflection. Perhaps most impressive is the sense that they have lives offscreen, lives we only hear about in fragments. It’s a story about the stories that aren’t the central ones that mark us nonetheless.
Related reading/listening to Kim Taeyang’s film Mimang
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