By Mónica Delgado
In The Day After, one finds some subtle transformations on the narrative strategies of Hong Sang-soo had patented throughout his filmography: variations on a same theme or occurrence, where the narrator has the ability to return to a previous scene to revisit it, thus originating a double lecture of what could have been. That’s how Sang-soo allows this mirror game with his characters, showing them in the same situations but with minimal changes that come from chance, determinism or even just to reveal a contraption in the tale, like a rhetoric move. However, this maneuver takes not only the value of a resource with splashes of humor; this time this is thought from the logic of the flashback.
If in previous films the resource of variation inside a variation allowed for an unfolding of time in two ways to discover the possibilities of the narrative and the characters, like an extrapolated literary exercise, in The Day After, this revisit of the same scene doesn’t deal with what “could have been” but with the indifference to memories. The characters aren’t submitted to this double play of reality, but to confirm that the past is a certain fact of the flexible, forgettable or fragile.
Hong Sang-soo chooses a writer and publishing editor in a love crossroad with his wife, his lover and the new employee he just hired. Through this plot this character becomes naked, by a series of flashbacks that are inserted in the narration to tell about the emotional instability of the writer (and that also serve as fugues of the three spaces that shelter the situations in the film: a studio, a house, and a restaurant). And these flashbacks confirm the frailty of the choices made, something that is cemented in the scene where the writer meets after some years with the hired employee and return to some topics, as if they were ignoring this passing of time, and giving form to the frailty of their memories.
Keeping with the minimal format of his filmography, Hong Sang-soo changes environment in The Day After. There are no more actresses, director or jealous producers, but a writer and the warmth of his books, symbols not only of the materiality of this kind of elliptic narration or temporal game, but also elements that manage to preserve the facts, avoiding the memory loss due to a few shots of alcohol.
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Script: Hong Sang-soo
Music: Hong Sang-soo
Photography: Kim Hyung-koo
Cast: Min-hee Kim, Hae-hyo Kwon, Saebyuk Kim, Yunhee Cho
South Korea, 2017