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What Drove the King Crazy?
[Film review]"King And The Clown" transports us to the court of Joseon's most notorious tyrant
Lee Jun Ho (junolee)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-01-09 18:18 (KST)   
Korea's Joseon Dynasty was one of world history's longest, starting in 1392 as it ushered in Confucian ideals and finally collapsing with a government handover to the Japanese in 1910.

The poster of "King And The Clown"
©2006 Eagle Pictures
"King And The Clown" (2005) takes us to the court of the dynasty' most notorious tyrant, King Yeonsan, also one of two monarchs dethroned by a coup d'etat. This film focuses on the relationship between king and clown, not on the king's downfall. But Yeonsan's tyranny, which led to the coup, is a key setting of this film.

Some historians compare Yeonsan to Rome's Nero. To understand why Yeonsan (played by Jeong Jin Yeong) ruled his nation with a heavy hand, we are introduced to Jang Seng (played by Kam Woo Seung), a clown who says, "If I had known that the king is in his subjects' hands, I would have not tried to enter the palace." Yeonsan, who couldn't bare to be in this situation, solves his anxieties by slaughtering his subjects.

And like Oedipus, Alexander the Great, and Sigmund Freud's landmark analogies, we see Yeonsan's mother warring on his psyche. Jang Seng and fellow clown Gong Gil (played by Lee Joon Ki) perform a play in front of his mother in which a queen falls into a snare with the king's concubines and is later killed.

But in this story, Yeonsan's mother is the queen. After seeing the play, Yeonsan killed two concubines on the spot. According to the True Record of the Joseon Dynasty, Yeonsan slaughtered his subjects who were responsible for his mother's death.

Actor Jung Jin Young, playing King Yeonsan
©2006 Eagle Pictures
"King And The Clown" is fictitious, but the movie borrows some documented spoken lines from the True Record of the Joseon Dynasty, which records, "The clown named Gong Gil told the king, 'If the king isn't like a king, then rice isn't like rice.'" Gong Gil was promptly executed.

This film also focuses on the friendship between Jang Seng and Gong Gil. But if you don't understand Yeonsan, you may have difficulty following this film.
©2006 OhmyNews

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