The Ascension of Han-Ne
(Hanne-ui seungcheon)

Screening on Film
Directed by Ha Gil-Jong.
With Hah Myung-Joong, Hwang Hae, Jeon Young-Sun.
South Korea, 1977, 35mm, color, 96 min.
Korean with English subtitles .
Print source: Korean Film Archive

Ha’s personal favorite among his own films was The Ascension of Han-Ne, which he brashly declared to be the greatest Korean film of the 1970s, together with Kim Ki-Young’s masterpiece I-Eodo, released the same year. In The Ascension of Han-Ne, Ha embraced Kim’s (and Shohei Imamura’s) abiding fascination with the “primitive” past as an insightfully distorting mirror of the present, delving deep into the folkloric and mythological imagination of 19th century Joseon Korea and cutting right to the bone of the patriarchal Confucianism undergirding Korean society and politics to this very day. As in Vow of Chastity, Ha’s evocation of the distant past is purposefully minimalist and sharply pointed to the present with its story of an innocent young man who rescues a young maiden from suicide only to discover that they both are caught in a viciously incestuous trap of deceit and betrayal controlled by a corrupt shaman. The Ascension of Han-Ne makes clear Ha’s belief in popular cinema’s radical power to awaken consciousness in its transformation of genre formulas—here the ghost story and horror film—into profound questions about the legacy of Korea’s most deeply seated cultural traditions.

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Ha Gil-Jong and the Revitalization of the Korean Cinema

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