Pluto 명왕성 (2012)


Pluto (명왕성, Myeongwangsong) is a 2012 thriller, drama film, a second feature film from director Shin Su-won.  This is the first thing i watched in 2013 Korean Film Festival in Bandung on Day 1 along with Deranged. Pluto portrays the harsh, ugly truths behind the life of students in South Korean elite high school.



Kim Joon (David Lee) came from a common mid-low class background but eager to achieve better life by studying and working hard. In the elite high school he tried to join an exclusive clique that consists the top 1% student and the most privileged of the school, lead by the top ranked student, Taylor Yoo-jin (Seong Joon). Dark secrets are revealed behind this exclusive club. When, Yoo-Jin Taylor is found dead in the mountain behind his school. Joon is the main suspect when the police discover his phone at the crime scene. Despite his classmates testimony, eventually Joon is released though due to insufficient evidence.

The movie opens with footages of  National College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) held by the ministry of education in South Korea and served as university entrance exam. It was the first time i’ve seen such tense-filled atmosphere (i don’t think Indonesian uni exam possess the same level of edginess). People are praying in temples and churches, parents whispered and cried good luck to their children ear, road blocks and traffic re-routes to ensure the smoothness of the entrance tests. It deliver a glaring criticism to the pressure of Korean educational system through means of gritty realism.  While i never took university entrance exam before, i can not help but think it all still seems more than a little extreme. Along with these footages, a scene from the film is parallel edited to intersperse, showing a student in his uniform, bludgeoned in the middle of the wood. The disturb and unease launches the film and invite the viewer to witness the horrific events that about to unfold.

The so called exclusive clique, made up by sociopathic (if not psychopathic) privileged students. The social gap between Joon an other regular students versus the exclusive cliques becomes very apparent and show how the cliques benefits from their wealth and it become their resources to guarantee their future. Criticism directed towards Educational industries how the rich gains more leverage than the economically inept. A situation that is not uncommon in Indonesia as well. The clique redefines school bullying and hazing rituals. Pulling extreme measures as if there’s nothing to far or too much, from violent mugging, blackmailing, even resorting to destroy the lives those who come on their path. Yoo-jin does posses another emotional layer that become a driving force behind his actions which posses the same emotional appeal as Joon.

The actors of the film delivers a solid performance. David Lee (who is a reminiscent of young Kanata Hongô) as Joon stood out the most, as he portray the brooding character descend to a web that he can not untangle himself from. The actor success in delivering Shin’s intricate script that is charged with riveting details. The cineamatography help capture the grim atmospheric elements through its deliberate and well calculated measure. Inserting eerie spinning shot to capture the hysteria that boils under the cold concrete of the school facade.

Pluto, the title of the movie is referring to the dwarf planet in our solar system. In one of the scene Joon who is pasionate about astronomy rebate Yoo-jin opinion on revoking Pluto status in the solar system. This, in turn, is synonymous with Joon refusal to accept his (socio-economical) background as a crutch and prevent him from achieving his dream. The planetary theme also delivered through the musical score from Ryu Jae-ah, an eerie, hypnotizing sounds from gamelan-like instrument, a reminiscent of Mychael Danna score The Whale from Life of Pi.

Pluto delivers a grim satire that criticize the social and educational system of South Korea. Beautifully made and wonderfully acted, the movie is so well calculated, possessed a great psychological depth and deliver satire critcism to South Korean education and social system. A clever, tour de force from director/writer Shin Su-won. The film was also screened at 2013 Berlinale and received special mention from Prizes of The Youth Jury in The Competition Generation 14Plus.

We are actually very fortunate to see Pluto earlier than the public of South Korean (and for free too i might add!). For those of you in Jakarta, Pluto will be screened one last time at 7pm tonight at Blitzmegaplex Pacific Place, the venue for 2013 Korean Film Festival. I assure you, the film worth to be seen (more than once for me).

PLUTO 명왕성 (2012)

GENRE Thriller, Coming-of-Age 
DIRECTOR Shin Su-won | PRODUCER Francis Lim, Shin Shang-han | WRITER Shin Su-won | MUSIC Ryu Jae-ah | CINEMATOGRAPHER Yun Ji-un | EDITOR Lee Do-hyun | STUDIO SH Films, June Films | COUNTRY South Korean | RUNNING TIME 114 minutes | RELEASE October, 2012 (Bussan Film Festival), July 11, 2013 (Wide release)
STARRING David Lee (Lee Da-wit), Seong Joon, Kim Kkot-bi, Jo Sung-ha, Sun Joo-ah, Park Jung-jae, Kim Kwan  

Stills are from HanCinema | IMDb | Trailer

The film is part of 2013 Korean Film Festival Screening. Click on the banner bellow to view my other thoughts on the film featured in the festival :)

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One thought on “Pluto 명왕성 (2012)

  1. Pingback: Monthly Digest: June 2013 | kinema kinema to karamel

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