The KCC UK’s ambitious ‘Year of the 4 Actors’ programme has been continuing throughout the lead up to Summer, this time with the focus on actress Jeon Do-yeon. Unfortunately, Jeon Do-yeon was unable to attend the scheduled Q&A at the end of her season due to unavoidable circumstances and the ever fabulous and unpredictable life of being an actress. But we really enjoyed the diverse range of Jeon Do-yeon films screened at the KCC over the 12 weeks of her season, many of which we have already seen before, emphasising just how big and popular an actress the lovely Jeon Do-yeon is.
Jeon Do-yeon first found fame acting in TV dramas but really found her place in the public eye when she starred in The Contact (1997). She’s known to be able to adapt to any role she’s given, and is even often referred to as a chameleon given her ability to accurately take on the character of any role she’s handed, no matter how varied they are. Because she’s able to slip into roles so easily, she’s had a great array of different types of characters to play, and she always manages to give a very impressive performance. In fact, Jeon Do-yeon was the first ever Korean to receive an acting award at Cannes for the film Secret Sunshine, winning ‘Best Actress’ in 2007. She’s also seen as a role model for younger actresses, showing how she’s greatly respected with her skills highly admired professionally. If you look at the awards she’s won, you’d be amazed. She may not be as internationally recognised as Choi Min-sik, but she’s one fine actress that can bag the prizes!
Jeon Do-yeon’s filmography is epic and the KCC no doubt had a hard time picking just a selection of her films to be screened. Back in the day when HMV only had a handful of Korean DVDs on sale, which consisted mostly of horror films and the Vengeance series, Untold Scandal was a Korean film that captured the British public’s attention, with its beautiful traditional aesthetics and scandalous story lines. When screened at the KCC as part of the Yong E-J season, the venue was completely packed out and was one of the most popular screenings at the KCC, as well as being one of our first encounters with the beautiful actress that is Jeon Do-yeon.
When looking into Jeon Do-yeon’s filmography, we realised that we’ve actually seen a number of her films but it never really clicked that they were all the same person. This is because Jeon really lives up to her “chameleon” reputation; she adapts and transforms into her roles so well that you just don’t realise all these very different roles are played by the same actress. From an innocent school girl, prudent widower, village bumpkin to sexy femme fatale, her whole body, from mannerisms, movements to even voice, she fully immerses herself into the role and completely transforms into the characters she are portraying.
We were really looking forward to meeting such an amazing actresses and were quite disappointed that she was unable to visit us but equally excited about her new and upcoming project. If you take a look at some of the interviews she’s given in the past, she seems like a very grounded woman with her head firmly screwed onto her shoulders – “At the end of the day, we’re all alone. Our job is about making our own choices, standing in front of the camera alone and bearing it alone” (source). She also clearly doesn’t give in to pressure from inside the film industry, or from the public – “I think I’m the type of person who wonders what I want rather than wondering what people want of me. Not to say that I ignore their thoughts but I pay more attention to my own demands” (source). With a clear outlook on life and as a woman who knows her own mind well, she is a great role model for actresses and females alike. After a very heavily male orientated Year of 12 Director season, it was really great for the KCC to bring us such strong and powerful actresses. Like Moon So-ri, Jeon is also a mother but continues to take on any role she pleases. In fact, after her maternity leave, she returned to star in the very racy Housemaid, a role which she first reluctant about due to the nude scenes but she was encouraged by her husband who “didn’t want [her] to change what roles [she] chooses just because [she’s] married” (source). The Jeon Do-yeon season has been one of the most popular at the KCC, with most of the screenings packed out.
The films shown in the Jeon Do-yeon season…
The Harmonium In My Memory
This film started off the Jeon Do-yeon season. A lovely and cosy feeling film, it tracks the story of a young girl who develops a crush on her teacher (a young and adorable Lee Byung-hyun) and tries anything to get his attention, only to find his affections already lie with someone else. Jeon Do-yeon’s performance in this shows her as a fresh-faced but sassy young student intent on landing her teacher’s heart. Her acting is charming and she portrays the turbulent emotions of a young girl beautifully; capturing our hearts with her totally relateable awkwardness as a teenager in love. For this role, Jeon landed the Best Actress award at the 1999 Blue Dragon Film Awards and 2000 Grand Bell Awards.
My Mother The Mermaid
Next up in the Jeon Do-yeon season, the KCC showed this beautiful film where Jeon once again shows off her natural acting abilities by playing not one, but two roles! Starting off the film as a harassed and tired post office worker with an embarrassing and outspoken mother, she abandons a free holiday in order to track down her AWOL father. Upon travelling to her parent’s hometown, she soon discovers she’s stumbled back in time to when her parents were young and first met. Here she meets her mother, played by Jeon too, and endeavours to help her parents fall in love. Jeon manages to juggle the two roles in the film so well switching from the somewhat aloof Na-young (the daughter) to the young country bumpkin mother role amazingly. Even though they look the same, the differences in how she acts, the little mannerisms she adopted for each of the characters, as well as the different accents, really separates the characters and make you believe they are two completely different people, truly astonishing. Her performance was so powerful and emotional that it had has crying our eyes out and has to be our favourite film of the season. We cannot emphasise how amazing it was to see Jeon play two completely different characters from two different periods of time. Her interactions with her other character were also awe-inspiring, we cannot praise this film enough. Jeon won Best Actress Award for this film at the Korean Film Awards and we think it is very much deserved.
My Dear Enemy
In the third film of the season, Jeon plays the role of a more grown up and world-wise woman, a woman who’s on a mission. She’s out to call in long-standing debts from an old flame, and she’s not taking no for an answer. Her serious character contrasts with the happy-go-lucky ex-boyfriend who owes her money (played by Ha Jung-woo who’s also featured in ‘The Year of the 4 Actors’). Compared with the first two films, her character in this is quite different. Her role is one of a woman who won’t take any rubbish from people and seems pretty unhappy with life, it’s such a contrast to her previous roles. When comparing this film with the previous ones, it really highlights how adaptable Jeon is and how easily she can switch from youthful and joyful characters happy and free in life, to characters who have been beaten down by the drudgery of day to day living.
I Wish I Had A Wife
Unfortunately, this is a film none of us managed to see! However, the synopsis sounds very fun. Jeon plays the role of a shy and love-struck woman who’s been harbouring a secret passion for a man who she sees on the way to work everyday. Will they be able to meet, and will love run smoothly? We’ll all have to watch to find out. As Jeon won another Best Actress Award for this film, we’re going to assume she was amazing as usual.
This was a film that earned Jeon a lot of awards, and the film in general was a huge success. Winning multiple Best Actress awards because of this film and her skilled acting, this film demonstrates once again how versatile Jeon is and how she can take on any role and make it her own and give the film her all. With some darker tones in the film, lots of emotions, and playing the role of a mother, Jeon makes her role in this film shine and shows yet more sides to her as an actress.
This film marked the return of Jeon Do-yeon after taking maternity leave. This was a remake of a film with the same title from 1960 and featured a very star-studded cast. Jeon plays an innocent woman hired to be a housemade for a rich family. The family appeared perfect, with a big house, successful husband and beautiful wife, but cracks start to show and soon the innocent housemaid is pulled into a dangerouse love triangle.
With the Jeon Do-yeon season, we got to witness one of South Korea’s finest actresses in action. Jeon is a graceful actress whose style is understated, subtle, controlled and highly emotional. She is absolutely captivating on screen in no matter what role she takes.
The KCC is now beginning their next season of the ‘Year of the 4 Actors’ programme featuring one of the most recognised Korean faces of the film industry, Choi Min-sik aka that dude from Old Boy. We are currently waiting for the next Choi Min-sik screening to be announced but the season started with Failan, a film displaying a very different side to Choi Min-sik in a beautifully told and shot love story. What other sides of Choi Min-sik will we see next?