Striving for but not quite attaining the mythic quality of such recent Asian features as BLACK MOUNTAIN (1994) and RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991), THE TWO FLAGS is too schematic to function as realistic drama.
It is 1950, during the Korean War. Atop a barren, snow-covered hill, an unnamed widow (Yun Chong Hee) dwells in a cluster of cabins. She has only a dog for company and protection. Having lost her husband and son to opposite armies, she keeps the flags of both Koreas handy to hang outside depending
on which side currently occupies the territory. When Maibong (Chang Dong Hwi), an elder from a destroyed village, arrives begging for food and shelter from pursuing soldiers, the widow takes him in. She soon regrets it. After he shows gratitude by repaying the debt with sexual favors, Maibong
grows uncooperative and parasitic, even trying to kill the dog for food.
A second man comes to the widow's door, an army deserter (Kim Hyong Ill) also desperate for sanctuary. Young and strong, he helps the widow kick Maibong out. The old man subsists on his own in a miserable adjoining hut. A refugee girl (Sin Young Jin) befriends him, bringing the old man both
sensual pleasure and food snatched from behind enemy lines. When the deserter finds out, he casts the widow aside and demands the girl for himself. The men fight savagely, setting fire to the compound. At dawn, only the widow remains alive on the hill, silently holding her two flags in the smoking
Leading lady Yun Chong Hee is a major star in Korean cinema; she and Chang Dong Hwi do their utmost to humanize their roles in a calculated plot whose sad outcome seems preordained. Dialogue seems to echo the doubletalk of diplomats, as these rough-hewn peasants constantly rationalize their own
brute selfishness with statements about "what is reasonable." Microcosmic power plays and rivalries climax in a rather labored parallel to the civil war offscreen. THE TWO FLAGS paints a bleak portrait of human nature, suggesting that no matter how the chips fall, women will always get the worst
of things. Production values and cinematography are excellent, although the snowbound and constricted setting leaves viewers as cold as the story itself. (Violence, adult situations, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Striving for but not quite attaining the mythic quality of such recent Asian features as BLACK MOUNTAIN (1994) and RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991), THE TWO FLAGS is too schematic to function as realistic drama. It is 1950, during the Korean War. Atop a barre… (more)