Director: Lee Kang-cheon
Cast: Noh Gyeong-hui, Lee Yea-chun, Kim Jin-kyu, Heo Chang-kang
Film genre: Drama, War
Cert U, 110 mins, 1955
Distributed by Korean Film Archive
A band of ‘red’ partisans runs up a mountain gorge under fire. We the spectators enter with them into Piagol – Pia Valley – at full speed, deep into the Jiri mountains. Their numbers will soon be reduced to a handful: captain Agari (‘big mouth’), his second-in-command Cheol-su, a few male adults, two women and a boy. This micro-society of revolution will gradually consume itself.
Piagol was one of only 15 films released in 1955. Hindsight suggests this year as the beginning of a Golden Age, at least a remarkable decade and a half, for film in South Korea. While the best-known products of the post-Korean War cinema would be predominantly melodramas and/or period films, Piagol attempted something more challenging: a historically informed, though still anti-communist, representation of leftist partisan fighters left stranded in the South after the main phase of the war ended in stalemate and the Armistice of July 1953 confirmed the bloody status quo.