Thursday, September 1, 2011

thoughts: Scent of a Woman (Korean) - a gem among gems

This article may contain spoilers; please proceed with caution.

My previous statement about this series has been overturned.

During the first impression post for this series that was published not long ago, I mentioned that, for a series based on romance, I had not the slightest care about the underlying love story. No matter who Lee Yeon Jae (Kim Sun Ah) ended up with was up in the air and it didn't bother me. I only wanted to see how she would continue to plan and act out the rest of her life. For me, THAT was the most meaningful part of the series.

While it's still true, the idea of the love story, I think, has finally taken it's hold on me.

Following the development of the story line, it had been quite passive in it's presentation of a dying woman. The angst was there, but only in hindsight, and so you never really think about the series as a sad one. Lee Yeon Jae's journey to live her life to the fullest was turning out to be an exhilarating experience, almost too refreshing for a series based around death, angst, and romance. Nothing else about the series really mattered to me as long as our main male lead seemed indifferent to everything around him.

I hadn't quite felt it before, but finally, in the recent story line, the love story has begun to reach the peak of it's beauty. For the first few episodes, Kang Ji Wook (Lee Dong Wook) was nothing but a lifeless and dull string puppet for his father to control. I didn't really care for him since he didn't seem to care for his own life. However, as the story progressed, you start to see more of a soul begin to flicker behind those apathetic eyes of his. Where he could have cared less about the fate of his father's company, he began to initiatively take responsibilities without being assigned. Where he didn't care what happened to him in the future, he began to desire a life of his own, to live the way he wants to live and not the way his father wants him to live.

Kang Ji Wook began to develop into a real individual and not just some backboard rich prince, flat and impartial to the rest of the world. Meeting Lee Yeon Jae, this man begins to take form and feel more passionate about his own life, gaining the perspective to have control rather than be controlled.

For a guy with a naturally serious expression, how can you not fall in love with that smile and that adorable playfulness?

It's foolish to say that I'm proud of the quick progress he's made from episode one and onward. But the truth is, that is EXACTLY how I feel about him and his newfound motivation in life.

Unfortunately, because of this, the love story that was doomed from the start rears it's ugly head and reminds me, as the viewer, that there will be angst, there will be sadness, and there will be tears (yes, my own). The happier that Kang Ji Wook became, the more my heart ached at the prospect of him falling in love with a dying woman. And then the more that he fell in love with Lee Yeon Jae, the more I silently pleaded the powers that be for a happy ending. From the start, it had been fated for a tragic end, but the kindling of such a stunning love story makes it hard for me to feel indifferent about the impending destiny of our main couple.

Because now we can begin to see the angsty romance that starts to wrench at our hearts.

Kang Ji Wook perfectly steals the spotlight with his progress, so much so that he is finally on par with Lee Yeon Jae's wonderfully created character. Lee Dong Wook's natural portrayal of the modest transition that Kang Ji Wook goes through is done exceptionally excellently, further proving that he is indeed one of Korean drama's most valuable assets. The romance between our main couple is set up in such a way that there are no extremes and only a simple act of falling in love and starting a relationship.

Throughout the progress of the story line, the chemistry between Lee Dong Wook and Kim Sun Ah is so breath-takingly sensual that it serves to further establish their love story. And at the same time, their romance is so playful and innocent that you can't help but to envy how simple it was for two people to admit their feelings and begin their romance.

And this is why the heart aches for these two when the reality of the situation finally hits Yeon Jae. Where her only goal had been to live the rest of her life to the fullest, it had never occurred to her that when she fell in love with someone, that same someone would also fall in love with her. As a result, when she finally succumbs to her cancer, she won't be able to remain with the one she loves and, in turn, he would be losing a loved one as well. The idea of that sadness now starts to eat at her so much that she is stuck in a conflicted fight against her fate and her desires.

What was she doing? she asks herself. What did she think she'd be able to accomplish? The anger and the resentment she feels comes to surface when she realizes just how cruel fate had been to her and how unfair it is that falling in love, for a person like her, would come with such grave consequences.

And so finally, I DO care about the love story.

Scent of a Woman has proven to become a gem among drama series for this season. These are the moments when a story touches your heart so much that you come to realize why, despite the sadness and the melancholy and the tragedy, we love emotional romances such as these. I guess maybe I'm finally coming to understand why people are so drawn to Korean drama angst; when written well and executed admirably, they tell a story that makes you feel complete in spite of the heart-wrenching anguish that must be encountered along the way.


Related articles:
first impression: Scent of a Woman


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