Andreas Gregoriades | Cyprus | 12/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For those who enjoyed "Road Home" here comes another wonderful version of an emotional film involving teachers.
In this case the story is developing around the first love of an innocent village girl and the newly arrived teacher.
In this mixture of sad and happy moments we can enjoy the innocence and purity of a young girl who discovers love for the first time, the effort of a teacher to remain impartial and fair as a teacher towards a girl that he started liking too.
The involvement in the story of other teachers and people around their daily life, adds interest and emotion.
Soon the viewer is part of the story.
The photography is magnificent and the music typical of the 60s.
This wonderful selection of music is also a centerpiece in the development of the story.
A very well balanced film, running smoothly and keeping the viewer interested, full of emotion, throughout the entire duration.
Seemed a little pandering to me
Phillip Royer | San Francisco | 08/15/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love Do-yeon Jeon and what I love about her is that she always appears completely genuine in performance. In this film, however, her every move is riddled with acting. It's hardly her fault as she is given the mighty task of portraying a fifth-grade girl. What is that? Ten years old? Eleven? Her character could be seventeen for all I know, given the poverty and functional illiteracy of her community, but she's still a fifth-grader. All the self-conscious insecurities and pouting of a girl that age--not to mention a girl that age whose day to day life is overwhelmed by a mad crush on her new twenty-one year old school teacher--all the mannerisms are forced. But enough about that. No use crying over spilled milk, or, thank god in this case, unrequited love.
The Harmonium in My Memory is a sweet little nostalgia film set in rural South Korea sometime after the war around 1960, give or take, centering on the teachers and students at a community school. Many of the students can't afford basic school supplies, are often rowdy in class and prove to be quite a handful for the rookie teacher played wonderfully by Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life; Joint Security Area). It's the youthful idealism of Lee's character who wants to treat the students with respect and tolerance set against the older teachers' old-school values of beating and discipline that serves as the film's basic theme. The other likeable character in the film, played by Mi-yeon Lee, is another young teacher who takes her students outside to make noise and run off steam, much to the chagrin of her elders. She's Lee's love interest, and she and he share a passion for music, providing for many a musical moment in The Harmonium in My Memory. "Don't Break The Heart That Loves You", sung by Connie Francis, captures the torchy milieu of these characters perfectly--perhaps a little too easily.
The Harmonium in My Memory isn't a bad film, but expectations are extremely high for Do-yeon Jeon, and she disappoints; all the characters in the film are cliché; the use of dramatic music seems like a shortcut to emotions the characters aren't capable of making us feel; and the ending is manipulative, tacked on to make us get happy about a film that left us empty.
And what's the deal with kids bringing stool samples to class?"
Rich Look at Rural South Korea
dellyjoe | 09/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just a really great movie which succeeds in recreating the bucolic atmosphere of South Korea of fifty years ago. South Koreans let their emotions play on the surface, quick to scold, quick to befriend, quick to laughter, quick to anger, and always moving on. This is a clever movie with a clever ending that is explained with photos while the credits roll. I have watched hundreds of hours of South Korean cinema and this movie is one of the best."
Great little film
Daddie | WA United States | 02/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great little film that you can likely find at your public library. I greatly enjoyed the sights of Korea in the 60's recreated for this film and seeing how students behaved. It would be interesting to see such things in the US, but I doubt Americans would understand the cultural value system, or find the children willing to take such schooling if you look beyond the love story at the daily life shown. Something to remember when watching, the main character is older than her classmates because her education has been delayed to take care of her family, and it is looking back some 40+ years into the Korean countryside. Modern Western idealist will find this a confusing contrast if you missed learning about the gray areas of life and the world. A good film if you want a debate about modern cultural views and education in a class."