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The Love of Children in “The Nine-Year Old’s Life”

Posted March. 16, 2004 23:03,   


You see a watercolor painting with white clouds in the blue sky, a cozy house on a hill, and a yard filled with flowers and pots. A serene piano melody is heard from the scene. This is the attractive beginning of the movie “The Nine-Year Old’s Life.” As the movie begins, a narrator says: “A writer once said. Except for excessively happy children, nine-year olds are old enough to know life. What did you do and feel at that age?”

For some reason—whether it is that age itself or the sense of happiness at that age—“The Nine-Year Old’s Life” reminds people of forgotten dreams, memories, and love.

Once the watercolor painting transforms itself into a real picture with a coal tar roof, the movie brings us back to our lives in the 1970s. Though the main actors are children, the movie is a fairy tale for adults who cannot go back to the old good days forever.

The movie, based on a bestseller of the same name by Oui Ki-chul, deals with a story of children who had to be mature for their ages. Poverty is ironically a catalyst for growth. The children had to be mature and know the world of adults early for their ages.

In a village in the southern province of Kyoungsang in the 1970s, child boss Yeo-min (Kim Seok), his admirer Gi-jong (Kim Myoung-jae), and Geum-bok, who likes Yeo-min, are good buddies. When Woo-rim (Lee Se-young) in white clothes and shoes comes to this small town from Seoul, many things change.

“To like” would be a more appropriate term than “to love” to express their feelings. When Yeo-min shows interest in Woo-rim, Geum-bok pouts and Gi-jong is disappointed at the fact that his boss no longer fights well.

This movie vividly shows lives in an elementary school and a poverty-stricken village in the 1970s through the eyes of children who quarrel over small matters. Lunch boxes that conspicuously show the gap between the rich and the poor. “Made In U.S.A.” products that symbolized the best quality. Lost money in a classroom and rather barbarian ways to find the thief. Rumors that some boy likes some girl. These are the very factors which connect the hearts of movie viewers and the young actors beyond ages. Moviegoers burst into laughter as children’s cute love affairs resemble love triangles of those in their 20s.

The nine-year olds in the movie tell the viewers that what buttressed the lives of the people in absolute poverty in the past were their family and friends.

Are children in this prosperous time happier than Yeo-min? It is a natural question that comes to the minds of viewers as they leave the movie theater.

The movie will be released on the 26th and is rated for all ages.

Gab-Sik Kim dunanworld@donga.com