Director: Kang Dae-jin
Cast: Kim Seung-ho, Shin Young-Kyun, Hwang Jung-Seun, Jo Mi-ryeong
Film genre: Drama
Cert 18, 97 mins, 1961
Distributed by Korean Film Archive
From the moment of its release in 1961, A Coachman became a milestone in Korean cinema, the first film from the country to win a major award at an international film festival – Berlin’s Silver Bear Extraordinary Jury Prize. Even without these accolades the film would be a landmark, an apparently simple story of endless nuance and panoramic breadth.
The coachman of the title is an elderly patriarch lodged with his adult children while eking out the remains of a living at the reins of a horse-drawn cart. Amid the frantic modernisation of postwar Korea, the buzz of cars surrounds him and makes clear his future – but his real heartache is the fate of his family, trapped by their working-class origins in a society built on status and nepotism (his youngest daughter resorts to imposture as a member of the upper orders.). Centred on a glorious performance from Kim Seung-ho, A Coachman is a masterwork of class dynamics and family life, unsentimental but brimming with warmth.