The Flower in Hell
Director: Shin Sang-ok
Cast: Choi Eun-hee, Kim Hak, Jo Hae-won, Gang Seon-hui
Film genre: Drama, Romance, Crime
Cert 15, 86 mins, 1958
Distributed by Korean Film Archive
Dong-shik, an innocent young man from the countryside, arrives in Seoul in search of his brother. Amongst the busy streets, markets and American army bases of the post-war city, Dong-shik eventually finds that his brother Young-shik has become a small-time criminal romantically involved with Sonya, a sex worker. Dong-shik tries to convince him to return to their hometown together, but they soon find themselves embroiled in an unexpected love triangle. Few Korean films of this era featured female characters as audacious and formidable in the face of adversity as Sonya, wonderfully brought to life by Choi Eun-hee.
Shin Sang-ok had a prolific career, with more than 100 producer and 70 director credits to his name, earning him the nickname ‘The Prince of South Korean Cinema’. His 1958 classic The Flower In Hell thrilled audiences with its bold aesthetics, its mixing of genres, and its incorporation of documentary footage. Throughout the film, Shin draws attention to the relationships that working class Koreans had with US soldiers, refusing to shy away from the dark side of 1950s Korean society.