Frozen Flower, A | aka Ssanghwajeom (2008) Review

"A Frozen Flower" Korean Theatrical Poster

"A Frozen Flower" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Yu Ha (aka Yoo Ha)
Writer: Yu Ha (aka Yoo Ha)
Producer: Lee Tae-heon
Cast: Jo In-seong, Joo Jin-Mo, Song Ji-hyo, Shim Ji-Ho, Im Ju-Hwan, Yeo Wook-Hwan, Song Joong-Gi, No Min-Woo, Do Ye-Seong, Jang Ji-Won, Kim Chun-Gi, Lee Jong-Gu, Kwon Tae-Won, Do Yong-Gu, Go In-Beom, Ham Geon-Su, Park Jong-Su
Running Time: 133 min.

By JJ Hatfield

A Frozen Flower is a fictional drama set sometime near the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, 918 – 1392. The region is under control of the King (Jin-mo Ju) however it is always being watched by China. The young king sets about finding young boys to serve as his personal guard. He trains them well and allows them into the palace as well as sleeping there. As they grow up they are highly educated and taught that there is nothing more noble than to die for the King. The Chief Guard is Hong-lim (In-seong Jo) Hong-lim’s fighting skills are excellent and he is well respected. The King is content with the way things are as Hong-lim’s position as Chief allows him a greater freedom to come and go as he wishes.

It is obvious by the time Hong-lim is Chief that he has a special relationship with the King. He even sleeps in the King’s bed. There are only a few brief scenes of the King and Hong-lim having sex. There is no frontal nudity, mostly passion filled kisses. Even when they are in public the honor and respect Hong-lim demonstrates towards the King is obvious. This arrangement would have suited the King well for years to come.

China, however was not content with the situation. The King had no heir. If anything happened to the King, chaos and violence might be part of the result and the overflow could effect China. The edict from the Chinese ruler was that if an heir was not produced within a specific amount of time the Chinese would put some one else in charge and the King would remain so with no authority, existing as only a figurehead.

The King has never once approached the Queen (Song Ji-hyo) in a romantic or sexual manner. Or even a warm embrace. They do not sleep in the same bed. When the mention of an heir arises she dares to suggest that perhaps if he made more of an effort things would be different. He responds by telling her he cannot take a woman, that he is homosexual but they do have other options. The possibility takes the King to talk with Hong-lim who is horrified at the very idea of trying to conceive a child wih the Queen. Not only would he not be sleeping with the King but a woman – who was the Queen! He has never even touched a woman, he has no interest in women. Hong-lim is understandably bewildered. The Queen is willing to try because she knows the importance of an heir to the throne. The first attempts are awkward and embarrassing, as well they would. The King insists Hong-lim try again. This time when Hong-lim meets with the Queen he is able to awaken her sexuality as he discovers his own.

Hong-lim and the Royal Guards investigate an earlier assassination attempt on the King. In talking with local folk he is able to determine there are a number of people that have vowed to stand together and remove the King, one way or another, preferably by death. The King schemes a way to deal with his two faced enemies and rid the Royal Court of those who are disloyal to the King.

As time passes Hong-lim and the Queen spend as much time together as they dare. The King has begun to grow suspicious because he senses a change in Hong-lim though the Chief denies anything is different. The covert meetings are dangerous but Hong-lim and the Queen feel more than lust for each other and it is that the King senses.

“A Frozen Flower” is a visually beautiful film. Most of the story unfolds indoors but the scenes are so rich and full of detail the viewer does not feel claustrophobic. The costumes are bright and colorful and full of intricacy. Delicate embroidery graces most of the clothing, even the Royal Guards uniforms. Ornate head-pieces and exquisite jewelry overfloweth. The festivals are grand and full of dancing, singing and good wishes. There are a lot of people involved in crowd scenes and for festivals. Nothing feels cheap, everything, every prop, dress, armor, glass, sword, has great detail and look very real. Part of the success clearly goes to the three main characters – the King, the Queen and Hong-lim. The actors did a splendid job in convincing the audience this was a real event, so much so that many people think it is an epic historical piece. These characters, these people could certainly have stepped out of time and seemed believable.

The music/soundtrack was really quite good and in some scenes propelled the situation forward. At different times both the King and Queen sing and play for the court. The songs work in well with the overall theme.
Unfortunately idiots abound in every nation and country in the world. Some of the idiots seem to be giving sex way too much thought with this movie. I had heard all sorts of ridiculous rumors before I saw this movie and I have no idea what the complaints were really about. Movies with three – way love triangles usually involve sex. The majority of “sex scenes” involve the Queen and the Chief. There is no full frontal nudity, meaning breasts and butts and nothing else. They do have sex in different positions but since when is that a bad thing? The aspect that makes this triangle so intense and so dangerous is because love has entered the picture.

Humans can go to incredible lengths and sink to frightening depths over what they may call love. Who is to say any caring relationship is right or wrong?

Kudos to Ha Yu for his brilliant screenplay and his willingness to show men having sex with men is hardly new or unique. South Korea is still in the early phase of acceptance of gays and lesbians. Especially homosexuality is not well received. I believe Ha Yu will be rewarded for his bravery in including sensitive material in his film.

And speaking of rewards:

2009 Baek Sang Art Awards
Best Actor Jin-mo Ju

2010 Fantasporto
Orient Express Section Special Jury Award
Yu Ha

This film is one you should see a couple of times. There is a lot of intrigue and changes the lead characters go through. It’s a lot to absorb in one sitting.

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 8/10

About JJ Hatfield

Freelance Photo/Journalist Founder and Director of two non - profit humanitarian organizations Writer and film reviewer. I love books, music, the arts and of course films!
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3 Responses to Frozen Flower, A | aka Ssanghwajeom (2008) Review

  1. JR says:

    What a tangled web we weave… As Hatfield says, this a wonderful film. Watching this movie, I kept thinking about all those characters/groups trying to control someone else. Layer upon layer of deceit, and what a price each pays for his/her efforts. Indeed, this a beautiful film and the music is perfect. The actors, everyone, make the story believable. Excellent review, JJ Hatfield of another excellent movie.

  2. JJ Hatfield says:

    I love being able to share good films! So glad you enjoyed it : )

    A bit of trivia – the actor who plays the king in “A Frozen Flower” was the Korean general in “Musa”

    Thanks for the comments. It makes my day to know people enjoy films I have recommended.

  3. DM2 says:

    I did not know that bit of trivia. Those 2 characters are are quite different from each other and both excellently played. What a good actor he is.

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