Tackling his fifth historical piece, The King and the Clown director Lee Joon-ik returns with his most sober and expertly crafted affair to date. The ultimate king’s court drama, The Throne brings the famous story of King Yeongjo, who forced his wayward son, Sado, to climb into a rice chest, that he died in eight days later, to the big screen just in time for the Chuseok holidays.
With muted colors and symmetrical compositions, Lee’s mise-en-scène is more formal than usual, heightening the historicity of the well-known tale. Its narrative is melodramatic to the extreme, not shying away from the histrionics or glassy-eyed characters, many of whose quiet suffering can be witnessed by a single tear drop grazing their cheeks, that are familiar elements of this Korean film genre.
Raspy-voiced as an aging monarch, Song Kang-ho delivers as a father faced with the toughest of choices, while Yoo Ah-in impresses again as the enfant terrible, albeit one with many more layers than his villain in the recent blockbuster, Veteran. Sure to be a hit during the holidays (though a curious pick by Korea to send to next year’s Academy Awards for the foreign language category), The Throne is an impressive, highly calculated period piece. Korean family dynamics have rarely played out on such a large (and devastating) stage.
Pierce Conran (Producer at 2Mr Films, film critics)