Director – Jang Joon-hwan – 1994 – South Korea – 31m
Born on the date of John Lennon’s assassination, a man believes himself to be the former Beatle – in the KAFA Shorts: A Midsummer’s Fantasia programme from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th
On the 8th December 1980, John Lennon is shot dead by Mark Robert Chapman in New York City. That same day, a child is born in South Korea. As the child grows into adulthood, he realises that he is the reincarnation of John Lennon. He grows his hair long and wears round lensed spectacles. Looking at him, you immediately think, John Lennon.
He tries to get record companies interested in his songs, but they don’t seem to grasp that he has the talent of John Lennon. Listening to him sing, and comparing the result to recordings of the first John Lennon playing on the soundtrack, neither do we.
His mother is confined to a hospital bed. He realises that if he reveals to her his true identity, i.e. he is John Lennon, then this would offer her hope and help cure her. This turns out to be a huge error of judgement on his part when he whispers the news in her ear, and she dies of shock on the spot.
He becomes involved with a young woman, onto whom he projects the character of Yoko Ono. She likes jewellery, so he buys her jewellery. In order to facilitate this, and lacking any money, he commits a series of violent robberies.
In the end, he channels not only Lennon but also Chapman – no glasses, shorter hair – appearing at his own door pointing a gun, the two characters confronting one another as his John Lennon character holds a gun to his own head and prepares to blow his brains out.
This bizarre scenario was written and directed by the director later responsible for Save The Green Planet! (2003) and 1987: When That Day Comes (2017), with camerawork which adequately completes the task by future director Bong Joon Ho. To anyone possessing basic background Lennon knowledge and a familiarity with his songs, the narrative here cleverly riffs off the real life Lennon. For instance, after Korean Lennon’s mother dies, the song Mother (“Mother / you had me / but I never had you”) both underscores the death of Korean Lennon’s mother and riffs on British Lennon’s feelings that his own mother never loved him.
Somehow, it’s all highly affecting.
2001 Imagine plays in the KAFA Shorts: A Midsummer’s Fantasia programme from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th.