Frozen Flower: Mediocrity at Its Finest

Updated on July 11, 2016
Jo In-Sung  as the General
Jo In-Sung as the General
Joo Jin-mu as the King
Joo Jin-mu as the King

As you know, I'm a long-time fan of Asian movies. I know a bit more about Japanese movies because I just love the Japanese culture. I also know a bit more about Korean movies because my niece is very much into K-pop and I am her financier. Just a month ago, she asked me to buy her a mini-album (CD with five songs) and it was worth $20.

When I watched this movie, though, I didn't really know much about it. It was recommended to me because of the explicit sexual scenes (it was recommended by a guy) and not really for its aesthetic value. It was pretty surprising considering the movie is from South Korea and it is still a conservative society. If only for this, it was worth a watch.

Synopsis

I'll make it easy. The king (Joo Jin-mo) is gay and is in a steady relationship with his General (Jo In-sung), also gay.

The king was pressured to have a child but couldn't bring himself to sleep with his queen so he asked his General to sleep with his queen (Song Ji-hyo). The General and the queen fell in love. When the king asked the two to stop sleeping together for some reason, they pursued their affair until the king found out.

Review

Story

The movie was loosely based on the life of King Gongmin of Goryeo during the Goryeo Dynasty. This king supposedly refused to get concubines when he was with his wife but when the wife died, he went into a concubine frenzy and pursued men as well. The movie was always open about the fact that the story of the movie is far removed from reality.

The narrative movement seems solid. The king and his general have been together since they were kids. Neither knew how it is to be with a woman. However, as it turns out, the king is more certain about his sexuality than his general. When the general discovered how it felt like to be with a woman, he realized he has a male side to him.

As solid the story seems to be, it is also where the biggest failure happen. The whole story became a mess when the director opted to demonstrate love through sex. The queen and the general never interacted outside of their evenings when they were supposed to have sex. During the time when then they were supposed to be falling in love, the director didn't provide a reason for the two characters to do so. Aside from their genitals, there really was no other way one character complements the other.

Thus, all the dimensions are lost. It became about sex instead of love. There wasn't even an exploration on how the general felt for the king and what he discovered about that feeling when he started sleeping with the queen. There was no exploration on how the queen felt about the king either.

Sex Scenes

However, the controversy of the film lies not in the narrative but in the treatment. The movie is one of the most controversial in Korea primarily because of the explicit sex scenes. There were about six or seven, all of them involved nudity where everything but the genitals were shown.

It's nothing new to Hollywood but I have to admit that even to Hollywood standards, the sex scenes here are pretty graphic and long... and detailed. I think it may be qualified a soft core, if my understanding of softcore is correct. In one scene, there were so many sexual position changes that I was able to drink half my coffee and they were still at it.

It was clear that it was about sexual awakening. The queen was a virgin and the general was a virgin to women.

However, towards the end of the movie, the General and the Queen ended up fighting for each other which must mean lust turned to love. That's where the problem started. Unless the director explicitly intended for love to be defined by sex, there weren't a lot of scenes that showed their emotions crossing over from lust to love.

There was one time when the Queen gave the General a necklace and one of the two gave the other soup but that's about it. There weren't a lot of motivations, reasons or driver for the emotions to cross over to love.

By all accounts, the General and the Queen were each others' rebellion having been trapped in the royal life with the King but it still does not justify how lust transitioned to love.The director didn't give the characters and the love a chance to grow.

Sex should have been the result of love. In this movie, sex is the be-all and end-all of love and that's why many also think the film is a total failure. Of course, the director and the writer can easily say that sex is their contextual definition of love but that's a paradoxical non sequitur.

As I've said, explicit sex scenes aren't new in Hollywood but it doesn't give any filmmaker an excuse to use it carelessly. In this movie, sex scenes didn't have to be treated the way it was treated. If the intention was to show how the emotions have changed, from obligation to love, wouldn't it make more sense to change the treatment of the scenes from raw to romantic? Or wouldn't it make more sense to bring their relationship out of the bedroom and into something that involved spiritual or emotional connection? That would involve clothes.

If the intention was for the audience to see how the emotions change, why do a 69 where their faces were buried into each others' genitals? The two actors weren't that great as actors to be able to convey their emotions using their back muscles, you know. And in those shots where their faces were shown during sex, I couldn't quite get whether they were in agony or they needed to poop. The queen was shown squirming (or whatever that facial expression was) while pumping. Well why on earth are you having sex with him if you are in agony? Darn it!

It is also undeniable that the sex scenes were long and detailed. Considering most of the greatest films of all time didn't involve nudity in a sexual context, I don't understand why these scenes have go on for so long.

I have no problems with nudity and sex scenes but I am always adamant that it be done ONLY when there is no choice because it is absolutely necessary for the story. There are so many love stories that didn't even show skin and even more love scenes that were done with so much sensitivity - 300, Ghost, Pretty Woman. Lo and behold, it is possible.

Acting

Of the three main characters, the king stood out. There is natural depth in his eyes. There is a natural disturbance and instability there and it meshed well with his royal bearing. He walked with pride and certainty but his eyes showed softness. It is also interesting how he decided to attacked the role with timidity. He was reserved and his movements were small but precise so that when he exploded in anger, the horror was greater.

The general played well as the object of affection. From the get go, it was clear he was the "female" in the relationship however subtle it may be but the lack of dimension on his role probably affected the dimension of his acting. Of course, there will always be a question on whether or not it is up to the director or the actor to put dimension on the character but those who know film would know how much the actor can influence his role.

The queen is probably the biggest failure. It is understandable that she takes on a regal form but she must have mistaken royalty to stiffness because her face always looked like she just rolled out of bed and saw a bear standing by her feet. I couldn't understand whether she's damning the world to pursue the man she loves or simple enjoying the sex like it's no one's business or in some sort of a trance and she doesn't know what she's doing.

Recommendation

The movie had a lot of promise and it didn't really turn out that bad especially if you take into consideration the great visuals and great cinematography.

As mentioned, you will get the point of the whole movie. However, it will not take you through the journey. It will not take you through the adventure of discovery. It feels like the movie is a classroom teacher who just declares the lessons to be learned instead of allowing the students to discover the truths.

It is mediocre, at best.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Smith 

        2 months ago

        it is real Song Ji-hyo?

      • profile image

        Sex is ok 

        7 months ago

        It's not that the characters fell in love because of sex. Or Hong was transformed because of sex. Or even that the movie had so much sex. I think you are focusing on the wrong thing being that "there's so much sex scenes" that you've failed to see how the relationship blossomed. Hong felt guilt in the beginning and so did the queen. But when they kept sleeping with each other, Hong sort of realizes how he is at the king's disposal. The king made him sleep with the queen. He was tormented because he's only been with the king even from a young age (which film suggests it's always been one sided as the king was older and had power over him). He developed feelings for the queen because he had empathy. He has never been with a woman before let alone allowed to be with one so there was no time for him to realize he can love a woman. They developed feelings for each other by kind gestures they showed one another. They couldn't have shown falling in love by going on dates because their relationship started as a secret and turned into a secret they had to keep from the king. They were both lonely. Hong in the sense that he had to serve the king and the queen being trapped in her non intimate marriage. Sure there were a lot of sex scenes but none were unnecessary. If you think about it... That's how affairs are. It's graphic, yes, to show sexual awakening of the characters. It's called frozen flower. I agree that hong and the queen lack in facial expressions but as far as the movie goes, I think it was done well.

      • profile image

        Elix 

        8 months ago

        For me, this movie was able to show how their lust turned into love. The Queen never felt how to be touched, and made love to before by the king, since he is gay. Even if it's a slap on her face to have sx with another guy ,she still does it since her loyalty for the king still is her priority and it can be seen how she wanted to protect the king, even her love is unrequited. She even told hong how she despises him before since the king only have eyes on him. On their 1st attempt to have sx but did not push thru it can be seen how she cried bec.it hurts her pride as a wife and woman. 2nd was just a plain sx, her 1st as a virgin but it can still be seen she still is sad abt it. But on their 3rd try and 2nd attempt to have sx, it can be seen hong tried to win her approval by setting her mood, that's the 1st time she even responded to his kiss,she allowed him. 1st time Queen felt that she belong to someone, that he wants her. Hong also felt the same, it can be seen how he tries to explore what can make queen open up. In their all boys setting growing up, the feeling to be with a girl for the 1st time was also foreign to him, on one scene he is seen reminiscing his sx with the queen, how beautiful she was. Then that lust started to turn into love, he bought her that necklace nd honey suckle tea (implies she is special since he said before, his late dad thought that to him) , it meant so much for queen at that time, esp.they are on that setting where meeting is not that fully allowed. She saw hong as thoughtful and it slowly creeps into her system, before they had the sx in the library, she already embroidered that forehead band meaning he is special for her already, she longed for him. So when she said she will wait for him nxt day and he didn't go, she was brokenhearted by it so she decided to leave palace first. Hong even did not told king abt him going back early since he rushed to see queen, he misses her. That scene they had sx when he follwed her to the outside of the palace, that's a love scene that shows how they misses each other, shown thru their body, you can see how he wants her, how they explore each other and make each other satisfied and pleasured, but even if he is with her he still longd for her. The nxt scene after that was the memorable part that verifies for both of them it is not just lust, she cooked something for him and she said it is their custom to only give it to the person you love, and when hong ate it he cried since he already know now she feels same way to him. That part where he told king he is only blinded by lust and don't love her is him protecting queen since king wanted to have her partnered to a different guy,since king also knows but just denying, he is losing his lover. He can see how hong is already in loved with the queen. It can also be seen on the end part when he is already castrated, even if he knows he can't make the queen happy anymore, he knows in his heart that none of this matters for both of them, the queen can also be seen that she still wants hong and wanted to protect him so she called in his friends to help him escape. He also told king he never loved him, it is more of a duty serving the king and not love, he also realizes that. Movie itself is really explicit with the sx scenes but there is more to that, just need to understand the setting and simple gestures really means a lot at that time. Lust turned into real love in the end.

      • profile image

        sahil 

        13 months ago

        I really feel bad for king but he make mistake ...& he paid for it.....Queen bad & same time aslo good person pleasure take over her body & she betrayed king same i want to say about hong lim.......

        I wishing to making this kind of movie in future...& i will make all things clear...not like this move all confusing.... But i understand little... But i don't know how she felt about king & how king feel about queen ...& same for hong lim feeling for king

      • profile image

        sahil 

        13 months ago

        I recently wached this movie..I think ...she was feeling empty even after she got married ...she want love affection care but she don't have that thing...bec.king can't able to give that to her .....when she having sex with hong lim she felt uncomfortable 1st after she felt pleasure her pain fading away bec.of that it's like medicine to pain make go away & hong lim was the 1st man to touch her that's y she maybe fall in love with him ...same goes for hong lim ...may be he think he was just serving to king

        But they both betray king ....but its King decision make them to betray him... I feel bad for him .....

      • profile image

        sahil 

        13 months ago

        I really got confused .. They showed Hong Lim & Queen were in love with each other & yeah they were in love with each other no doubt about that , but the question is how they fall in love with each other ? Because of having sex with each other or just because The queen was a virgin and the general was a virgin to women & that was their 1st time? Or because their body never felt this kind of pleasure before , & now they need each other body & after meeting after meeting each other to pleasure their bodies ...not only physically but emotionally their heart were connecting ? Is that so ? Is that the way they fall in love with each other ? Yeah , i know queen always felt lonely even after she got married & have a husband... & deep down in her heart she wants that physical love not only that she wanting love she wants home for her heart & that king can't able to give her ...& she knew y...bec. He was gayI know king do care for her but that's not enough he doing that just bec.she is his wife & his duti is make her happy as a king but he was not doing well...yeah i know he can't give her physical love but in relationship that's not only matter their is also other way to make a strong bond... He needed to be friend with her it's not that we only make a friends that we attract physically ..but if he befriended with her it never would have happened he never get that thought of making his wife to sleep with another manI know his not a bad person but he make very big mistake to doing that with his wifeBut king also give her choice to go back to her home but she didn't it's natural thing bec.for her husband home is her home ...they respect each other but that's all nothing more than that i have a doubt they are even friend ? They both doing what's best for their kingdom .

      • profile image

        meh 

        14 months ago

        what if it was intended? that it's a great tragedy because things happened that way and that given some more time or reflection on anyone's part, then things might not have ended this way. That it's not about true love, but the confusion of love in many forms?

        If the king didn't misuse those little boys, would the general have been gay? Was he even gay in the first place, or was it because the King closed everything off? If they had more time, would they realize they're not in love just in lust or are they really in love? If it was love, how come the sex scenes were not intimate (just action packed). Did they really have to fight to death? In the end, who did the general love? IF only they gave each other time. If only things didn't happen the way they did.

        As a viewer, it did make me think of those things. But as time grew on, the movie gave a lot of introspection because it didn't make as much sense.

        Not that I'm comparing, but Romeo and Juliet. I think obligations and emotions where much simpler and more aligned in the past--it's such a shame when we look at it now though. They seem young, they seem stupid, their noble acts seem unnecessary, their love seem like lust.

        To me, it's too much coincidence and was handled too carefully, for the story to be senseless (and be just a blind avenue for lust).

      • profile image

        yani 

        16 months ago

        i like this movie, at first just everyone else here i went to watch it to see these sx scenes but there's a story on it.. upon reading your thoughts about the queen in the story , i felt obliged to give some of my own insights about her. yes, there might be some awkwardness that her bed scenes with the general were longer and quite improper or very detailed as you say, and if you could say,the director is telling us that their love story is only based on lust.however, let us not forget she was taken by the general as a virgin and she knows nothing of intimacy, for a woman from a conservative country and era at that time,intimacy ,sx is a big deal. he was her first and so it was special.

        in that era women and man are not like today, they cant just hold hands with someone they like, they could only glimpse or stare a little, give thoughtful gifts..those little things shows too much at their time. in the movie, there was an instance that the general was not able to see her on their meeting place , she felt so sad that she went out of the palace but then this general went to see her.she was given a chance to feel that love from those little things.

        i think the director did a great job of portraying each character.. for me , this film is memorable.

      • profile image

        Shin 

        18 months ago

        You're right on that. The King shares part of the blame for his own misery too. But he trusted his general to stay loyal. The general didn't. On the second part of the movie, I didn't care about the general and the queen anymore. Both of them were too in lust with each other. Mostly, I felt sorry for the King and devastated at his death at the hands of his once lover. Superb acting from the King. But the other characters were mediocre at best.

      • profile image

        mimi 

        19 months ago

        my question is, was the sex real?

      • profile image

        mimi 

        19 months ago

        yes, many women view sex as love!

        i can understand how the queen felt, she was alone in a foreign country without love or intimacy, of course she will fall for the one who gave it to her first! if you watch carefully, the 3rd sex scene was different, the chef had to get approval first, he did put her in the mood and they did even kiss! since the gay love was somehow forced( of course he couldnt refuse the king) , i am sure the chief felt like he was somehow in control over the intimate relations with the queen, and men loves that, which means why the chief fell for the queen

      • profile image

        audi 

        20 months ago

        if you dive deeper, sex doesn't always mean lust. In tantra yoga sex is considered as sacred. And I can relate that many women regard sex as love instead of lust. I think the way many women understand or think of sex is somehow different than how men perceive it.

      • profile image

        liam 

        21 months ago

        then, which movie would you consider as superb?

        This movie was lacking in ways as you said; lack of emotional connections and unclear emotions but it turned out good anyway. it had a lot of purging to do.

      • Chatty Chat profile image

        Cindy 

        2 years ago from Planet Earth

        Interesting analysis. I think I saw this movie a long time ago, but it wasn't very memorable.

      • profile image

        anon 

        4 years ago

        I think your right on the money

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