“Steel Cold Winter” – 2013 Busan International Film Festival Review


Sometimes a film moves along beautifully, with natural landscapes perfectly accompanying a dramatic script, leaving the audience to wonder how everything will work out in the end.  Then, inexplicably, it degenerates into an irreparable mess, completely negating the buildup and drawing out the conclusion several times over.

This is a shame because that mess also negates the fine job by the two leads in “Steel Cold Winter” (소녀), which made its world premiere at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival.  Kim Yoon-Hye plays the teenage girl Hae-won, and Kim Shi-Hoo is cast as the brooding teenage boy Yoon-su who moves from Seoul to Hae-won’s village in the mountains.  Both living rather solitary existences amplified by the surrounding snow and woods, they closely guard their own secrets but have no one to confide in.  Yoon-su has a strained relationship with his parents and listens to music to relieve his migraines that combine with screeching noises in his head; Hae-won lives with her mentally ill father and skates on a nearby frozen lake to clear her mind.  Naturally, rumors circulate in the small town where they reside and they find themselves drawn to each other to seek solace, particularly after Hae-won’s father is seemingly murdered.  But as much as their classmates are at fault for perpetuating said rumors, none of the teenagers have great role models in the parents and adults who rule the town, and this results in serious repercussions for everyone involved.

Once the viewer fully understands the psychological situations of Hae-won and Yoon-su, that is where the film should have swiftly wrapped up its denouement.  Instead, it tries too hard to poetically bring the story full circle, going back to a classroom lesson where Yoon-su shows up his teacher with his explanation of an upcoming total eclipse – an event that happened so long ago in the story that its reappearance is an anticlimactic afterthought.  As a result, the viewer wanders, stumbles and skates on thin ice to the end of the movie as much as the teenagers do.

“Steel Cold Winter” screens at the Busan International Film Festival on Oct. 8 and 10.