Director Zhang Lu has forged a career out of exploring his roots as a Chinese-Korean and as he’s moved his narratives from Yanbian and other Chinese locales to Korea, he’s continued to fixate on the displacement of characters. His latest work A Quiet Dream, which opened the Busan International Film Festival this year, focuses on both Chinese-Korean emigrees and North Korean defectors. To boot, it’s shot in black and white and frequently quotes works of poetry and literature, yet it’s light tone and the gentle, jocular camaraderie of its main cast make it one of his breeziest efforts to date.
Three noted actor-directors take on the roles of a trio of disparate suitors seeking the affections of a Chinese-Korean woman tending a low-rent bar in a Seoul neighborhood. Park Jung-bum, Yang Ik-june and Yoon Jong-bin each play characters similar to iconic roles they played in their own feature film directing debuts (The Journals of Musan, Breathless and The Unforgiven), while Han Ye-ri incarnates the enchanting yet forlorn barmaid.
The moments shared among the core cast make up most of the lightweight plot while the explorations of identity, though seemingly important, offer less insight than other Zhang titles such as Gyeongju. A Quiet Dream, much like its title, ultimately comes off as a pleasant revery, nothing more, nothing less, and hardly the kind of dream you’re likely to remember long after shaking off the cobwebs of sleep.