A Frozen Flower is a 2008 South Korean film. It stars Jo In-seong, Ju Jin-mo and Song Ji-hyo. Directed by Yoo Ha, the movie is set in Goryeo Dynasty Korea, particularly during the reign of Gongmin of Goryeo (1330-1374). Though based on true events, it is not 100% historically accurate.
Plot. The film begins with an overview of the old kingdom in Korea. During Goryeo Dynasty Korea, the king has a select battalion of thirty-six young soldiers, called Kunryongwe, led by military commander Hong-lim. Unknown to everyone, Hong-lim is special to the king for he is his “boy toy”, and regularly, he makes sexual contact with the king and sleeps in his bed.
However, the King is already married to a Yuan Dynasty princess. Because the King is not attracted to women and that he has never touched her, the couple does not have any children. Thus, there is a strong and constant pressure to the King from both the Yuan emperor and the Goryeo Kingdom to produce a crown prince. Due to the threats arising from the lack of an heir, the King resorts to a very absurd secret plan. He orders the Queen and his commander Hong-lim to make love and beget a child.
Both are uncomfortable with the King’s arrangement but they are bound to follow. At first attempt, they fail as both are unaccustomed to a body of an opposite sex. But as the sessions go on, the affair does not only involve the sexual experience for both fell for each other and a passionate love blossoms between them. This has now become their secret, and in this overwhelming love, the King has no place.
Hong-lim and the Queen go beyond their official mission and continue to meet each other at midnight in the library. Soon, the King suspects this affair, and after assuming that their involvement is purely out of lust, he forgives him. He decides to forget everything and sends Hong-lim away for a while to cool him down.
However, the Queen lures Hong-lim back to the library the night before his departure. She tells him the news that she has finally conceived. Later, they end up making love in the library. Suddenly, the King appears and have them tied up. When the two tries to save each other by asking the King to “kill me instead,” the King realizes that everything is not anymore lust but a very strong love. Infuriated, he has Hong-lim castrated and sent to prison. Everyone who knows about the child is then put to death.
The Queen finds a way for Hong-lim to escape from the prison. In the end, the King, the Queen, and Hong-lim face a heart-breaking battle. Enraged by a deception that the Queen is beheaded, Hong-lim fights the King with a sword. In this fight, the King asks him if he had ever loved him; Hong-lim replies that he had never felt love for him. With their last ounce of strength, both men kill each other.
Commentary. The movie is a controversial portrayal of a forbidden love. It is very different from many romantic Korean films which are playful, witty, humorous, and current. The Frozen Flower is the exact opposite – very sentimental, serious, deep, violent, and historical. It is overwhelmingly romantic with hot and explicit sex, almost like soft porn without the exposure of sex organs. The bed scenes are between the two male characters and between the Queen and the military commander. In those scenes, we can really see people burning with love and lust, not playacting.
The movie has blended well love, sword fight and history. It may not be as excellent as those Chinese productions, but the film succeeds in being vibrant, dynamic and fluid in the fight scenes. The stunts look so clean and the cuts and blood seem believable. Plus, it gives us a short lesson of history in pretty and colorful dresses.
Aside from the technical aspects of the movie, A Frozen Flower has a deep message about love and life. Homosexuality, or the love between two same sexes, is not a modern thing but a concept that already existed since ancient times. One man is in need of the love from a man he cared for since childhood. One man has not known love, only the heat of another man’s body, and so when a woman comes, he becomes trap in an uncontrollable raging love. It is really pathetic, for in the end, it is love that kills them. Both die due to pursuit of love – one seeking for the love he really never had, and one for the love denied on him. And audience will also feel a complex emotion of rage, sympathy and sadness. Truly, love is a force of nature.