In the year of 1762, when King Yeong Jo of the Joseon dynasty's been ruling for 35 years already, Crown prince Sa Do is accused of plotting treason by his biological mother lady Yi. King Yeong Jo falls into a dilemma since he could not penalize his own son as a traitor as it would mean that he would become the father of a traitor threatening his throne, and ends up ordering Sa Do to take his own life. As Sa Do’s lieges oppose King Yeong Jo’s decision by putting their own lives at risk, King Yeong Jo locks Sa Do in a wooden rice chest to kill him.
Cast & Credits
If you’ve read the real history of Prince Sado, you would know that he was a horrible monster of a man. The tales are filled with his brutality. He’s one of the most controversial figures in history. A man so scarred by his father that he lost his mind along with his humanity. But this film is not about the atrocities he commited. It’s about what made him that way. What turned a bright, warm-hearted and full of life man into a madman starved of affection, who wreaked havoc wherever he went. It’s an entirely different interpretation and considerably more heart breaking. For this movie, do away with all your past knowledge of history and shatter all the preconceived notions. Because if you let it, it will move you to an extent you didn’t know was possible.
Kings cannot be fathers. Sado is essentially a story about how a King driven by his own fears and inferiority complex, destroys his son’s life. It’s about a filial son who could never win his father’s favor no matter the extent of loyalty and affection he showed. It’s about little sacrifices and huge betrayals. But most of all, it’s about how love holds no meaning when there is no understanding.
This film isn’t an easy watch. The emotional and physical abuse of such a pure--hearted man breaks your soul. There are a lot of gray areas. No concrete villains or heroes. No absolute goodness or evil. Even when you want to detest some characters, you can’t. Because the tragedy of it all is just too great.
The moment I started this film, I knew I won’t be coming out unscathed. I had a tight ball of dread firmly lodged in the back of my throat and as I continued watching, that ball quickly transformed into liquid misery and came running down my cheeks. As soon as I wiped my tears, they were replaced by more. So much so, that I just stopped wiping them at all. Halfway through, I could literally feel my cheeks burning. And my heart? I felt as if there were a thousand hammers crushing it to dust.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even watch this in one go. During one of the most intense scenes of the film, something urgent came up and unfortunately I had to put a stop to it. The only time I had, to pick it back up was an hour before I had to go somewhere. I was dressed up and had my makeup on. Only 30 minutes of the film was left and because so much time had passed since I first started watching it, I thought “oh well, now the tempo is broken, I won’t be as affected anymore. Let’s get done with it and lay my curiosity to bed”. I was wrong of course, because the moment I pressed play I was back in that horrible world- as if no time had passed at all.
I remember just staring at the screen for at least 5 minutes even after the ending credits had rolled and needless to say, my makeup was a mess. I had to do it all over again.
I know that this is an acquired taste. Nobody likes too much sad shit- excessive sobbing and you lose the emotional appeal entirely. But the thing with Sado is, even when it is over the top, it somehow feels justified and doesn’t fail to pack jarring punches one after the other. It’s disturbing and yet, simple in its execution.
After this movie was released, people invented the term “ Yoo Ah In Shi Dae” which means “Time of Yoo Ah In” or “Yoo Ah In’s Golden Age” and I honestly cannot refute it. There are no words, no expressions in which I can describe the brilliance that was his acting. This, in my opinion, is his best work ever. You can see him go the extra mile and portray an extremely controversial character in such a heart-wrenchingly sincere way that it makes you weep.
The rest of the cast hold their own. They are all spectacular. The women, The King and especially the child actors.
It’s been 11 months since I last gave out a ten rating. Usually, when I rate something I deliberate a lot about it but surprisingly whenever I give out my 10’s, I don’t think or fuss at all. It’s always spontaneous and absolute. I know there could be flaws but my heart completely overcomes any critical thinking I could have done and I have no regrets.
The soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful, both manic and melancholic; perfectly embodying the Prince’s life. The fusion of past and present is impeccably done. The movie caters to small details, for example: the resemblance between the the actors playing the past and present of a character is remarkable, thus increasing authenticity.
I will re-watch this. There’s no doubt about that, but only when I’m feeling particularly masochistic.
Watch this if you want to experience the cream of Korean Cinema.
The ending isn't a surprise because it's a movie where you go knowing the heartbreaking truth, which is explained by a serie of flashbacks where we see Sado prince since he was little and how the relationship with his father keeps deteriorating with time. We have a proud father and a son who isn't "mad".
The main question who as a viewer you're going to wonder is how can be a son that horrible to try to kill his father or how can be a dad that cruel to kill his son but when you finish the movie you'll realise that there isn't bad guys or good guys.
Last year was Yoo Ah In's year with two great movies which are veteran and the throne, I can't even rate the acting for this movie he did a great job not portraying a simple character instead showing us a complex human which isn't one dimensional. Of course we can't forget Song Kang Ho who is spectacular as always and let us see more than a simple king, it's a great portrayal of a person who is king and dad at the same time. I don't forget the supporting cast and special mention to Moon Geun Young who returns after 9 years to the big screen.
Music it's a haunting song who I keep hearing after watching this workf of art (actually it isn't a song but you'll understand it after watching the movie).
This isn't a movie that I would rewatch once in a while because it really punchs you in the face.
If you like Yoo Ah In or you're interested in korean history and you want a masterpiece this movie is a MUST WATCH.