This is a special retrospective section on the actor Bae Doona, the irreplaceable artist’s works. It looks back on her journey through seven films across the boundaries of genre, space-time, and characters.
Bae imprinted unforgettable faces on the screens: dazed Hyun-nam in Barking Dogs Never Bite, considerate Tae-hi in Take Care of My Cat, anarchist Yeong-mi in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the naïve international student in Linda Linda Linda, Nam-ju who was resolvedly drawing a bow in The Host, and the taciturn left-handed ping-pong player, Ri Bun-hui in As One. As such, Bae has made an unprecedented chronology of the characters, regardless of the weight of narratives, genre forms, and the gravity of her role in the film. As well shown in Air Doll, the boundary between human and non-human does not matter to Bae Doona. On the other hand, some of her characters embody practical reality, not solely depending on the character’s peculiar situation as in A Girl at My Door.
The characters vividly realized by Bae show certain coherence, which is all they are undisguised, uphold their own standards of justice, and never lose their own rhythm. In her restrained acting style, Bae secured her characters’ presence and authenticity. In this manner, Bae has left her unique footprint of diverse characters living in varied worlds in Korean Cinema.
Even though Bae herself says that she has chosen films without much ambition, her filmography so far features the pride of Korean cinema, and the spectrum of her subtle characters exhibits unexampled cartography of her journey. Her stable career over twenty years in her own rhythm should be also celebrated. It must have been possible because of her enthusiasm, pride, and responsibility as an actor who has never left the film production sites. Looking back on this diligent but unconstrained actor’s journey will certainly resonate with us, especially in this era of isolation and anxiety. [KIM Hyunmin]