A brief review of “W”

I’m a tremendous fan of “Memories of Alhambra“,  a Korean series of 16 episodes on Netflix.  There are many excellent aspects — the acting is great, the actors are attractive and engaging, the scenery is interesting, the directing is wonderful, and the production qualities are great.  The only negative I noticed, and it’s a small one, is that occasionally the editing seems a bit abrupt.

But the absolutely knockout feature of “Memories of Alhambra” is the writing.  It is a wonderful and creative story.  The characters are well-developed, believable, and complex.  The secondary characters are just as real.  The plot builds through the entire series, and is unpredictable to the end .  Since I don’t speak Korean, I can’t really comment on the quality of the dialogue, but even through the subtitles it seems spot on to me.

So I was very interested to discover “W — Two Worlds“, an earlier series by the same writer, Song Jae Jung. It received rave reviews, but unfortunately is not available on Netflix. It is available, however, on viki.com, and I just finished watching it yesterday.

It is good, and it deserves the rave reviews.  In my opinion it’s not at the same level as “Alhambra” in many ways — but it shares the same creative storytelling.  One of the reviews said that it was instrumental in founding a new wave of Korean cinema, and I can see that.

“Alhambra” is science fiction, almost, where some attention is paid to having a  basis in reality for the fantastic events.  “W” is a fantasy about an alternate dimension, and there is no attempt to explain how the alternate dimension came into existence.  You can only take it as a pure story; the alternate world is just an imagination that you have to accept for the story to proceed. Both main characters die, and are brought back to life through trans-dimensional manipulations, and you can’t be distracted by how this actually happens. This is where the true talent of Song Jae Jung is revealed — she is able to make you forget the absurd basis and fall into the story as a story.

“W” is also much more a conventional romance — every episode has a “kiss” scene between the two main characters, for example, and the ultimate resolution is them living “happily ever after” .   This may be a bit too cliche for some — and there are hints in an interview that this may be a deviation from the original script.

The story goes through about 4 major arcs of death/despair to blissful romance, and it does get a bit predictable. And the series a bit too primary in its emotional colors.  But I liked it.  I notice that there is another Netflix series, “Nine: Nine Time Travels“,  written by Song Jae Jung.  Next on my list…

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