Hey all! I hope you’ve been having a festive October. Hard to believe Halloween is this weekend! Time flies I guess. I spent my weekend watching numerous movies instead of tending to my academic responsibilities— but in all fairness, one of them was actually for a class. I felt the need to re-watch The King and the Clown (a spectacular film!) on Friday, and that is one decision I don’t regret. Sunday I watched Princess Mononoke (another beautiful film) for an animation class I’m currently taking. And of course, I also ended up watching this movie, A Frozen Flower, which is why I’m here in the first place! I’ve heard a lot about this movie, but never found a chance to watch it before today. I’ve always wanted to, since I’m a fan of Ji Hyo (Running Man anyone?).
I will warn you, It’s actually a historical erotic film… which I was completely unaware of until I was hit with the first explicit scene. That really took me by surprise, which shows how little I actually knew about this movie before sitting down to watch it. Let’s just say– I got to see parts of Ji Hyo that I never thought possible ….but if we put the erotic scenes to the side for a moment, the movie actually had a somewhat interesting plot.
It revolves around three main characters: the King (Joo Jin-mo), the Queen (Song Ji-hyo), and the King’s Chief Military Commander Hong-rim (Jo In-sung). The King establishes a palace guard, full of thirty-six attractive young men. Among them is the leader Hong-rim, who is also the King’s lover. The beginning of the film shows the King paying extra attention to Hong-rim when he was a young boy in training. (Honestly… it came off a bit creepy to me, because the King is obviously a lot older than him, which makes him seem a bit predatory). From what I watched, I gathered that the King had his eyes on Hong-rim from when he was a young boy, and always planned to make him his lover. In other words, because Hong-rim was so young when the King began showing him affection, it’s all he really ever knew, and so it never occurred to him to have a romantic relationship with anyone other than the King.
This all changes, however, when the King and Queen are faced with the problem of producing an heir. The King is unwilling to consummate his relationship with the Queen, even for the sake of producing an heir, because he is homosexual. The Queen, is not only aware of his homosexuality, but also of his relationship with Hong-rim. It appears that the King consistently has sexual relations with Hong-rim to the point where the Queen doesn’t even sleep in the same room. Because the pressing situation is worsening, the King decides that Hong-rim, the only person he can trust, should sleep with the Queen in order to produce an heir. The two are outraged at the idea, and the first attempt is unsuccessful because Hong-rim, noticing the Queen’s tears, can’t bring himself to carry out the task. The second proves to be a little too successful. It becomes clear that their experience is a lot more intimate than they had intended. The Queen can’t help but feel a connection with Hong-rim, and Hong-rim is also drawn to her after having had the new experience of being with a woman.
The two continue to meet and have an affair, but it doesn’t take long before the King realizes what’s going on. He meets with them and announces his decision to have a different soldier help the queen conceive. This is his way of testing their feelings for each other. Both parties strongly object to the proposal, which only confirms the King’s suspicions. Hong-rim later meets the King to apologize, but he’s met with an icy response. However, Hong-rim’s actions seem to showcase his regret, and the King eventually forgives him, beginning to spend one-on-one time with him again like they had always done in the past. Hong-rim only has one night left before he takes his leave, as ordered by the King, to get away from the “temptation.” Although the King retracts this order, Hong-rim insists that he leave anyway. The Queen, tries to meet with Hong-rim one last time, but he refuses. When he finds out she has conceived his heir however, he goes to meet her and they’re caught having relations in the library by the King.
They both try to take the blame, and each insists to be killed in order to spare the other. The King realizes that it was more than just a lust driven relationship, and in a fit of jealous rage, he has Hong-rim castrated and thrown in jail. Hong-rim’s subordinates help him escape, and they flee. The Queen refuses to tell the King where Hong-rim is, and he kills her maid as a punishment. He then finds out that she’s pregnant and has everyone who is aware of the truth behind the child’s father killed. The only person he spares is the Junior Chief Commander, who has essentially taken up Hong-rim’s place.
The King captures Hong-rim’s subordinates and interrogates them on Hong-rim’s whereabouts. They refuse to answer and the King has them all killed and has their heads put up on posts at the palace gates. Among them is the head of the Queen’s maid, which bears the Queen’s necklace, in order to trick Hong-rim into believing the queen is dead. He falls for this upon his return to the city, and becomes determined to kill the King. He Disguises himself as a soldier, and enters the palace during the celebrations for the Queen’s pregnancy.
Back in the King’s private quarters, he happens upon the Queen. He snubs her and has his Junior Commander escort her back to her room. The Queen warns the Commander that the King will most likely have him killed as soon as the baby is born. She adds that if the Commander were to assassinate the King, her father would take over the throne, and if that happens, she promises to spare his life. The Junior Commander meets with his subordinates and discloses the truth about the King, the Queen and Hong-rim. Before the Queen’s plan can be executed, Hong-rim starts in on his own plan.
Hong-rim mercilessly battles his way to the King’s quarters. He confronts the King and demands to have a duel. During their fight, Hong-rim ruins the King’s treasured painting, which depicts him and Hong-rim hunting together. Then the Junior Commander and his team arrive, but they are ordered by the King not to intervene. The King eventually breaks Hong-rim’s sword and stabs him in the shoulder. As he holds Hong-rim down, he asks him one last question, which is whether or not Hong-rim had ever loved him. Hong-rim answers in the negative, which shocks the King. It gives Hong-rim just enough time to throw himself forward on the blade and kill the King with the shard of his own sword.
Hong-rim staggers to his feet, pulls the King’s sword from his shoulder and charges at the guards, but he is fatally stabbed by the Junior Commander. The Queen then arrives with the guards following close behind in order to hold her back. She cries out for Hong-rim as she’s dragged away and Hong-rim realizes that the King had never actually killed her. He dies facing the king, while realizing the King’s test. The Junior Commander then declares that the King has been killed by an assassin, and he orders his men to quickly remove the bodies, and never tell of what transpired.
The final scenes depict flashbacks from when the King showed a young Hong-rim the view of the city. He asks Hong-rim whether he wishes to live together, and the young Hong-rim replies “Yes.” The last few moments are a homage to the King’s dream of himself and Hong-rim happily hunting together, just like in the painting.
I think the plot was definitely interesting. It’s not too often that I come across Korean films with homosexual undertones. This one was actually quite open about the homosexuality, especially in the earlier part of the movie where Hong-rim and the King share a bed scene. I can’t help but feel sympathy for both the King and Hong-rim. In one sense, I pity the King because it’s clear that he’s only had eyes for Hong-rim for an extremely long time. He’s heartbroken when Hong-rim denies ever loving him at the end. In another sense, I think it was mighty stupid of him to have Hong-rim help the Queen conceive, because they probably never would have developed feelings for each other had that not been the case. I get that he needed an heir, but I think that he should have tried to find another way or at least stuck it out himself for one night in bed with the Queen.
I also feel a bit sorry for Hong-rim, because it’s clear that he never expected or intended to develop feelings for the Queen. You can see the inner conflict written all over his face every time he thinks about their shared encounters. His guilt is clear, but he just doesn’t seem to know what to do. It must be difficult to be in a position where you previously loved a man but now love a woman. I think part of his attachment to the Queen stems from never having been with a woman before. It was a new experience that maybe he though he never wanted because up until then, being with a man was all he’d ever known. Although at the end Hong-rim denies ever having loved the King, I don’t believe he meant it. I think he says it because his mind is still clouded with the idea that the King actually killed the Queen. Once he realizes the Queen is still alive, his face hints at the idea that he regrets killing the King and denying the love he had for him. I think he once loved the King, but after having the experience with the Queen, that love faded.
Overall, I didn’t actually pity the Queen too much. I felt bad at the beginning when she was forced to sleep with Hong-rim, but I didn’t like how she took the relationship further. I know Hong-rim also had a hand in the process, but I felt over time that the Queen became a bit forceable and needy about it. When Hong-rim tried to break it off on several occasions, she kept finding ways to renew it. I understand that she must have felt alone and like a third wheel all the time when Hong-rim and the King were lovers but something about her just irked me.
It was unique concept, and it kept my attention. I don’t regret watching the movie but it’s not something I would seek out or watch again. It’s definitely not family friendly, so be warned. I think, despite it’s erotic status, it had a pretty decent plot going for it, which is why I chose to stick with it. The acting was also very commendable and real, which I appreciated.
On a side-note, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw that Song Joongki was also in this movie! It was so amusing seeing him in such a minor role but fun being able to watch him in the background!