This South Korean historical drama, A Resistance – written and directed by Joe Min-ho – is relentlessly bleak and bleached of colour yet riveting in its emotional journey.
Set in 1919, during the Japanese occupation of Korea, we meet a victim of the brutal crackdown of political protestors; Koreans defying the Japanese invasion and oppression.
We see inhuman and abusive treatment of Prisoner 371, a young Korean female. We learn her name is Yu Gwan-sun (portrayed passionately by Ko Asung). She is reunited with neighbours from her village and compatriots in a stiflingly crowded prison cell where they are deprived of all basics. As she is berated by some and supported by others, we form a picture of what has transpired. Eventually we learn of her (and their) activism and subversive actions that clearly have led to their present incarceration.
Throughout, Gwan-sun’s persistent defiance unites and inspires small acts of rebellion amongst the other prisoners.
The movie reverts to muted colour for the flashbacks to somewhat happier times, then also for other more horrifying scenes of the brutal crackdown. Soon we see Gwan-Sun being beaten and sadistically tortured for her continuing defiance. Director Min-ho goes all out with these excruciatingly realistic scenes, and they’re difficult to watch. Eventually Gwan-Sun learns her brother is incarcerated in the same prison facility. Tiny morsels of information give her hope and fuel tiny acts of insubordination.
Joe Min-ho guides Ko Asung in her intense and sympathetic performance in order to craft an emblematic portrait of irrepressible defiance and leadership. It’s a wonderful representation of heroic defiance, and hers a magnificent performance within a powerful film based on a true story.