Intertitles, history and memory in Spring in My Hometown

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Lee Gwang-mo’s 1998 film Spring in My Hometown (Areumdaun sijeol) tells the story of the tragic impact of the Korean War on the children of a village servicing a local US Army base. One of the film’s distinctive formal features is a set of intertitles in the style of silent film title cards that frame the beginning and end of particular sequences of the film. Each intertitle provides a running commentary of historical and fictional events occurring contemporaneously in the Korean War and in the village. The film’s stunning cinematography has attracted academic attention, but was also criticized for creating an aesthetic spectacle that could be enjoyed by spectators while eliding the brutal history of the war. This paper makes use of publicity materials, reviews, and research on intertitles in silent film to demonstrate that the use of intertitles is central to the film’s foregrounding of tragic history. The film places the audience into a more uncomfortable viewing position than other Korean War films of the period by implicating them in the violence. It also explores the complex relationship between memory and the recording of history, and gives voice to unheard testimonies of the conflict. In this way, Spring in My Hometown accomplishes something quite singular in distinction with narrative Korean War films either before or since.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-123
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Japanese and Korean Cinema
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • history in film
  • Intertitles
  • Korean War film
  • Lee Gwang-mo
  • silent cinema
  • subtitles

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