Anarchist from the Colony
Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
On 1 September, 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated east Japan. In the mass panic that ensued, rumors circulated that ethnic Koreans were poisoning wells and setting homes on fire. This became a pretext for the massacre of thousands of Koreans, many of whom were imported as forced or cheap labor. Park Yeol (Lee Jehoon) and his Japanese wife Kaneko Fumiko (Choi Hee-seo), both anarchists dedicated to subverting imperialism, were made scapegoats and put on trial for treason. They seized the occasion to publicize their independence cause and ideals of equality.
Inspired by real figures, Anarchist recounts a barbaric page in Japan’s colonial history not widely known abroad. One of few Korean films that deals with its colonized past without fervid nationalism, or demonization of all Japanese characters, it instead celebrates the revolutionaries’ free spirit and humour, and the epoch’s romanticism and intellectual rigour. Lee, the hearthrob lead of TV drama Signal, cuts a dashing, unconventional figure as a wild, unruly dreamer, while Choi is a feisty and flirtatious presence as a fighter for female emancipation. As in his record hits The King and the Clown and The Throne (South Korea’s 2015 Foreign Language Oscar entry), director Lee Joonik demonstrates a unique heft in depicting the treacherous maneouverings of the ruling elite to evade accountability, through fake news and the targeting of minorities.