Set during the Goryeo Dynasty, the king (Joo Jin-mo) finds himself in a big predicament. To continue the royal dynasty by averting a decision of dethroning him, a child must be conceived to be the crown prince. The king is incapable of performing any sexual acts with a woman as he only has eyes for Hong-rim (Jo In-sung), military commander and his lover. The king decides to give him an unlawful and strange mission of copulating with his queen (Song Ji-hyo) in hope of conceiving a child. After hesitating in engaging on an unwanted act, Hong-rim and the queen abides by the king's wish but fails to achieve their goal of producing a child. They copulate again but their intimacy turns into romance and blossoms into love. Though the king suspects infidelity, Hong-rim continuously meets with the queen until they are caught with the king's own eyes, doing sexual acts. Hong-rim and the king loses their good relationship as lovers and becomes enemies while the queen finally conceives. The king's fury over his own wife's infidelity and his lover's disloyalty prompts him to impose high treason. All people in the palace who are aware of the humiliating issue gets killed under his command and Hong-rim's most loyal soldiers are beheaded for conniving with the queen to help Hong-rim escape. The two men who were once lovers fight until the end of their life.
What Makes It Interesting?
Watching the film made me cringe a lot, not just because I was watching erotic scenes between two men but because the killing spree was merciless and the missions were severely gruesome and relentless. Constant battles, blood, fury, infidelity were shown without a hint of flaw and I didn't find the sexual scenes offensive or pornographic because they were clean and romantic --- well, at least between the queen and Hong-rim. Between the two men, it was just merely controversial but the main leads (Joo Jin-mo, Jo In-sung and Song Ji-hyo) not only did great in the movie, they were sensational and their characters aren't something that you could forget. This film actually made history, not because it is a historical movie, but because the production was extravagant that it will always be one of those Korean films that will be constantly praised for the actors' outstanding performance and the movie's amazing cinematography.
This film was written very well, with more than ample amount of good lines and good scenes. It may have been a tragic movie but a movie like this is expected to be tragic. It is a tragic story with triumphant results and I thought I just watched it for the sake of seeing Song Joong-ki as one of the soldiers. In the end, I was in awe with the main characters that I have forgotten that I was watching it to spot Song Joong-ki. My last sight of him was when he was beheaded and after that, I had goosebumps all over for anticipating the big fight between the ex-lovers Joo Jin-mo and Jo In-sung. There was really nothing that could change the way that the movie was made because it was already excellent. In fact, I am still in awe until now.
2009 Baeksang Arts Awards
2009 Grand Bell Awards
Best Art Direction
2009 Grand Bell Awards
Orient Express Section Special Jury Award