ⓘ Obaltan


ⓘ Obaltan

Obaltan is a 1960 South Korean tragedy film directed by Yu Hyun-mok. The plot is based on the novella of the same name by Yi Beomseon. It has often been called the best Korean movie ever made.


1. Plot

The films depicts a man Cheolho, who lives a hard life together with his war veteran younger brother Yeongho, his pregnant wife, and his mother suffering from Posttraumatic stress disorder constantly screaming "Lets get out of here!", due to the aftermath of the Korean War. Cheolho suffers from a toothache but refuses to go to the dentist, despite his brother urging that keeping the toothache is a much worse problem than paying the dentist. Yeongho befriends an actress, Miri. Miri aims to help Yeongho get a job by making him an actor in a film project. While reading his lines for the films script, Yeongho realizes that his character is being judged for his wounded appearance and he was chosen for the scars he received from the Korean War. Choosing dignity over a rare chance to earn money, Yeongho quits the film. Myeongsuk, Cheolhos sister, is a former nurse who is now a prostitute for American soldiers.

The last, climactic part of the film portrays the brother, Yeongho, robbing a bank using a gun he secretly stole from Seol-hui. After being caught by the police, Yeongho gives up the money, then shortly his gun and himself, breaking down into tears as he is arrested by the police. Yeongho, now in jail, tells Cheolho to take his niece Hae Ok on a trip and be a good father to his wifes child. After hearing that his wife has died from childbirth and failing to even see her body at the hospital or the baby who came out alive, Cheolho finally decides to visit the dentist. While Cheolho has two teeth that must be removed, the dentist refuses to remove more than one tooth for the same day. Adolescent boys try to earn money selling newspapers with the headline of Yeonghos bank robbery. Cheolho tells the taxi driver to take him to the police station to see his brother, but once they arrive, Yeongho orders the driver to keep going anyway constantly repeating his mothers plea "Lets get out of here!". With his family gone and his toothache remaining, the taxi continues to drive aimlessly, leaving Cheolhos fate unknown.


2. Cast

  • Noh Jae-sin
  • Yu Gye-seon
  • Yoon Il-bong
  • Seo Ae-ja as Myeongsuk
  • Park Gyeong-hui
  • Nam Chun-yeok
  • Choi Moo-ryong as Yeongho
  • Kim Jin-kyu as Cheolho
  • Kim Hye-jeong
  • Moon Jung-suk

3. Reception

The government banned Obaltan because of its unremittingly downbeat depiction of life in post-armistice South Korea. An American consultant to the Korean National Film Production Center saw the film and persuaded the government to release it in Seoul so that it might qualify for entry in the San Francisco International Film Festival. Director Yu Hyun-mok attended the films premier in San Francisco in November 1963. Variety called Obaltan a "remarkable film", and noted that its "⁠rilliantly detailed camera work is matched by probing sympathy and rich characterizations."


4. Legacy

The most-cited quote from the film, mentioned in the contemporary Variety review and in later texts on South Korean cinema, is "Lets get outta here! Lets get outta here!"


5. Availability

In December 2002 Obaltan was released on Region 0 DVD in South Korea with English subtitles, but as of November 2007 is currently out of print. Gregory Hatanakas Cinema Epoch released the film on Region 1 DVD on March 13, 2008.