Review by Camden Ferrell
Hong Sangsoo is an acclaimed Korean director who is known for his minimalistic style and commitment to cinematic realism. His newest movie, The Novelist’s Film, had its premiere at the 2022 Berlin International Film Festival and has played in festivals worldwide since. A simplistic black and white feature, this is a movie that finds some authenticity and beauty in its numerous human interactions.
Junhee is a novelist who takes a trip to a bookstore among other locations where she interacts with people from her life. She also meets Kilsoo, an actress that Jun-hee tries to recruit to make a movie with. Its premise is as simple as it can be, and it allows the film to freely explore human interaction and chance encounter through an intimate lens.
Written by Hong Sangsoo, this film has an incredible natural feel. The story is told almost entirely through dialogue, and it does a great job of being authentic without feeling boring. He has an interesting way of framing mundanity in a way that is captivating to watch. While he is credited as the writer, it’s hard to imagine that there’s no spontaneity and true realism from the actors, but I guess the fact that it’s hard to tell makes this all the more interesting.
The movie is full of subdued and natural performances that match the overall feel of the movie. Lee Hye-yeong leads the movie as Junhee, and Kim Min-hee co-stars as Kilsoo. They both are great at feeling fully natural, blending into the domestic settings throughout the movie. They are never flashy or dramatic in their performances, and this contributes to the realism the movie is going for.
The simple cinematography, consisting mostly of static long takes, works incredibly well within the film. It’s as minimal as it is captivating. Something about the way he frames his subjects is inherently interesting, and it helps us see the beauty of the interactions these people are having. The movie also tackles some interesting themes of artistic authenticity and integrity that are interesting even if they aren’t always focused on as often as I’d like.
The Novelist’s Film will please fans of Hong Sangsoo and his sensibilities. General audiences might find its pace too slow, but there might still be something for everyone to enjoy in its simple premise and execution. A slow but realistic examination of chance encounters and timely artistic themes, this movie will captivate you in unexpected ways.
The Novelist’s Film is in theaters October 28.