During the Korean war, three surviving members of a PKA unit, two South Korean deserters and an injured American pilot all find themselves in a remote village where the inhabitants lead an idyllic life and know nothing of the outside world.
Welcome to Dongmakgol is the kind of pleasant surprise that fuels my love of world cinema. It’s a very different approach to the genre of the war film and as such feels really fresh and engaging. It shares similar themes to many other films, most notably Witness in that it’s a story of people of violence learning a simpler, more rewarding way of life, The Thin Red Line in the way it contrasts the lives of “uncivilised” people bemused by the hatred people who are otherwise complete strangers breed for each other without really knowing the real reasons why, and even Seven Samurai in the finale when the violence of the outside world threatens to shatter the villager’s peaceful existence. The village “crazy girl” even has a touch of the Amelies about her. It does have its flaws; the style can sometimes get in the way of the substance in that the soundtrack is rather overly intrusive and it is over-directed in places – the “boar hunt” scene is so absurdly over the top I’m not sure whether it’s meant to be taken seriously or not.
This means it can get a little overly melodramatic, but otherwise Welcome To Dongmakgol is a very sweet-natured, Capra-esque tale that gets under your skin in the nicest possible way.