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"A Frozen Flower" (2008): Mediocrity at Its Finest

Fairlane is a devout Asian entertainment fan. On the side, she is a professional screenwriter and author.

"A Frozen Flower" (2008)

When I watched this movie, I didn't really know much about it. It was recommended to me because it was supposed to have challenged the social stigma of Korea's conservative culture. If only for this, it was worth a watch.

Jo In-Sung  as the General

Jo In-Sung as the General

Joo Jin-mu as the King

Joo Jin-mu as the King

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.

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 of 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 of how the queen felt about the king either.

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 sensitive exposure.

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 get the desire of the director to show the intimacy and there are movies out there where the sex scenes were justified but Frozen Flower is not one of those movies.

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 them 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 would there be a need to include scenes where I can't even see their facial expression? 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 were having stomach problems. They looked so miserable. Why on earth are you having sex with him if you are in agony?

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.

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 attack 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 a dimension on the character but those who know the 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.

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 about 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.


Imen on August 02, 2020:

He was worried about her when she got sick and he sent her some medicine also he disobeyed the king's order to kill her brother... so i think there was some scenes that show that he loved her.

But I agree that the sex scenes were long.

fennell,martin on June 24, 2020:

Excellent movie.

Toni on April 04, 2020:

I just finished this movie and I loved it, sex scenes and all. I believe for most people unless your in denial, sex can lead to love and these scenes express that.

Now that that’s out the way, the three main characters were both right and wrong. Antagonist and protagonist Seee the king was gay, cool the general wasn’t and he didn’t love the king the way the king loved him. The queen loved the king out of loyalty and the general outta love. Naw the betrayal was simple loyalty vs love. The king asked something of the general and the queen that they couldn’t know would happen, love. Their love over took their loyalty. And rather admitting it or stopping it, it lead to the generals death along with the king.

See the general and the queen we’re virgins, so they never felt what they were feeling. No crime there, but not being true to what was going on lead to more troubles. The fight to the death was hard to watch. Especially knowing that the king just wanted the general to choose him over the queen. He wasn’t a bad guy just misleading.

My view of things I didn’t like, grooming boys to be substitute concubines, and guards to die for the king. But that’s how things were back then I guess.(with the age allowance of sex)

Also the sub-chief was to eager to replace him.... killing him off after the big fight was not ok, I would of loved to see a better ending then the generals death. The killing of so many people to keep a secret... like damn, and castration. Omg that was hard to watch and I’m a girl. But all and all I loved how it went in and out of sexuality, and very visual sex scenes...

To the directors producers and writers I loved this movie and it mad my top 5 movies. And because I truly got the context of the sex scenes as more then sex scenes I would love to create a movie or tv show that can express the deeps in which the non verbal scenes in this movie did.

Candi on January 23, 2020:

I just watched this drama. The chief of the soldiers was not gay which was the point. The King knew this on some level or he would have never suggested him being with the Queen. The soldier was basically raised from childhood to serve the King and that is how they saw their relationship apart of his service, you never see him thinking about the King in a romantic way. He treated sex with the King like it was his duty, but he was in love with the Queen. He sought her out and wanted to be with her (intimately). The King was truly in love with he but he never loved the King, thus the point of the drama.

M on June 26, 2019:

please say to me ! what name of soundtruck during sex between man and woman ?

Prs on May 15, 2019:

Agreed 100%

Meme on March 25, 2019:

You lost me from the very beginning, specifically, when you stated that you liked Japanese culture. Please remember that Nanking, unit 731, and comfort women are also a part of Japanese culture even though the traces of those events were successfully wiped out from the collective memory of the whole nation. Now, from my personal view that I project from the top of my very high horse: you didn't understand anything about this movie. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I don't even think you are capable of understanding. At least your review demonstrates that much. Which is good in a way - this movie is not for dum-dums who are used to mass culture and believe that the Palme d'Or is the measurement of quality and value.

But for the rest of those who are reading this review: if you are a real connoisseur and want nothing but the best - watch it. You won't be disappointed. This is one

of my favorite movies and I like only... I don't know... maybe five movies tops? On a personal note, I'd like to add: Fairlane Raymundo or whoever wrote this review - mediocrity at its finest.

karen on February 02, 2019:

Well i think u very funny!!!!i like the way u tell the whole story...the about the queen's face u right haha i was wondering the same thing too...As for the kings bodyguard i have to say that he is breathtaking ...truly!and those lips...hmmm

Bloom on September 13, 2018:

to say that this film is "mediocre at best" is rather untrue and harsh. it has its redeeming qualities, a lot of it actually. a lot of what the reviewer is looking for in terms of depth can be found under the surface, the dialogue and what is not being said; if the reviewer only knew how to look. it's not a wuxia film where emotional scenes are mostly drawn out. and like what the reviewer said to close this review -

" 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." - she has to discover these truths herself.

Smith on June 12, 2018:

it is real Song Ji-hyo?

Sex is ok on January 06, 2018:

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.

Elix on December 18, 2017:

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 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.

sahil on July 15, 2017:

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

sahil on July 15, 2017:

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 .....

sahil on July 15, 2017:

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 .

meh on May 29, 2017:

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).

yani on March 29, 2017:

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.

Shin on February 17, 2017:

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.

mimi on December 28, 2016:

my question is, was the sex real?

mimi on December 28, 2016:

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

audi on December 21, 2016:

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.

liam on November 02, 2016:

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.

Cindy from United States on June 29, 2016:

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

anon on December 01, 2013:

I think your right on the money