The truth is still blurry, but the lies are getting clearer ….

Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit

Kahlil Gibran

Title
That Winter, The Wind Blows    (2013)
Also known as
Wind Blows In Winter
Genre
Melodrama,    Romance
Written by
Noh Hee-kyung
Directed by
Kim Kyu-tae
Starring
Country of Origin
South Korea
Episodes
16

oh! brief

This kdrama tells the story of a gambler abandoned by his mother as a young child and an heiress to a conglomerate. He lives a meaningless life hankering after his next big win. She is held hostage by those seeking to keep her imprisoned. But, the two come together and learn the true meaning of love as they navigate life and all the obstacles it has in store for them.

oh! talks drama

I am relatively new to the kdrama scene and not afraid to admit it. When I found kdrama after being immersed in wuxia and lakorn for many years, I almost entirely stopped watching westernised television. I mean, reality shows ad nauseam just don’t cut it when compared to the hundreds of Asian drama and film available. Asian drama is an art form – one to be appreciated and enjoyed. On that note …

This kdrama was refreshingly beautiful!

Based on Love Me Not (2006), That Winter, The Wind Blows is simply put, exquisite from start to finish. There is very little not to like.

The first episodes are dark and seedy, echoing the atmosphere and lifestyle of Oh Soo,  a world of illegal gambling, drugs, and addiction to anything that will fill an empty void or abject loneliness. They also imitate the life of Oh Young, a spoilt heiress with a substantial fortune who is miserably imprisoned and unhappy with her lot in life. There are several scenes of violence including fighting and later knives.

The writer created a believable situation that forces these two lost souls together – even if they don’t realise they are lost themselves. Noh Hee-kyung accomplished so much with this drama. She penned the dual personalities of the two leading characters and their narration masterfully and wrote strong supporting characters to further the complexity and layering of the tale. And she carried the viewers adrift on an ocean with the gentle tide of emotions – from melancholy through hope and joy, languishing in lust and desire, but, racing through anger and betrayal to end with a bittersweet longing. Mastered! Respect!

There is no escaping the pull of this poignant love story, even by kdrama standards, the acting was that impressive. Casting is integral to success, whether it is a film, theatre or a drama. There is nothing worse for any story than a miscast individual. It negatively affects the success. I’m thrilled to report that this particular cast was carefully chosen and will appeal for their authenticity.

The two leads while being opposites that attract each other, also complemented and mirrored one another visually, physically and in demeanour as well as acting ability. The chemistry was tangible and crackling on one hand and then tender and adoring on the other.  An intrinsic sadness stained the happier moments, portrayed by all the characters, creating this the riveting romantic melodrama that it was written to become. A writer can write, the actors have to take that and interpret it and then paint the masterpiece with every ounce of skill they can muster, this cast did that! Too sentimental? I don’t think so!

Speaking to the filming of this drama, the cinematography captured the sweeping scenery of some amazing locations highlighting the beauty of natural surroundings (snowy mountains too), offering the perfect opportunity to show off the tasteful wardrobe of the characters. From those breathtaking shots to the intimate close-ups we understand that the cameramen, lighting technicians, location scout, key grip and set dressers exceeded in their job under calculated directing. When combined with a master in editing, I can honestly state that the drama crew delivered a visually beautiful cinematic production.

And the music …. someone please buy the music director shares in O2Linn or C1Blue and then send him my address! Okay, all jokes aside, have you listened to the soundtrack for this drama? Besides when you watched the episodes? It urges me to want to grab some guy, any guy, and slow dance. Such beautifully choreographed music, so moving, so filled with emotions, so all-encompassing. I had moments where my heart just filled to bursting – intense, but in a good way! There isn’t a single piece from the soundtrack that I haven’t downloaded and listened to, even the instrumental pieces. That’s saying something!  And if you listen to the entire soundtrack from start to finish you find the music mirrors the emotions invoked by the story, which the actors effortlessly portrayed. It is breathtaking and magnificent and in the same level and category of the theme music for the Titanic, in my opinion.

If you’ve got this far, then you’re in for a bit of a surprise. I know, I’ve been praising the writing (because overall it is fantastic), but, I did have some issues with the plot and its progression. It starts off strong and loses its mark along the way. The ending, I wanted something bigger, more dramatic! That’s not to say that I completely dislike the ending and how we got there, it just wasn’t what I wanted. We don’t get everything we want so I’ll happily settle for the way this drama ended.

Also, the whole brother-falling-in-love-with-sister (incest) ploy wasn’t explored enough. It was hinted at and neatly packaged away. I think I’d have liked to see more conflict and sexual tension – it could have added a whole new level of drama. But I understand that this is my westernised sensibility at play here. We really are exposed to extremes in western culture. That is why Asian dramas appeal to me, they remind me of an innocence I once had, but, lost along the way.

There is a good balance of sexual tension, though, so all is not lost. It is charming and will bring out your smile. There is also the way Oh Young lovingly touches things that come across in a sensual way, but, I suspect that was not the intention. Altogether a healthy offset between sensuality and romantic tension.

At one point, well into the drama, I was struck by the sheer number of characters that I either pitied or had empathy towards. It might appear overboard. But real life is like this! Maybe a more mature viewer, like myself, can recognise that we are all the walking wounded. We have all got burdens, secrets, shames and insecurities that we carry. And if not us directly, then someone in our extended family or a friend. Certainly, in the circles we travel through in life, we will find:

  • someone with addictive behaviours like gambling, drugs and alcohol
  • someone who has had a tragic life and who is needy and lonely
  • someone whose existence relies heavily on having someone dependent on them
  • someone who is struggling with health issues.

These are very real things that happen in life. But I must admit, I am getting sick and tired of the overuse of ‘amnesia’, so I was disappointed this featured in this drama.

Without giving away too much of the drama, I want to detail some of the attributes Oh Soo and Oh Young bring to their roles.

Oh Soo, our leading man, who becomes another Oh Soo starts out with a nonchalant attitude. He really has no care for anyone or anything, he’s just focused on himself and Jo In-sung was convincing in his delivery of this playboy gambler role. He revealed this hot-headed, stubborn, wound up tightly and tight-fisted man seamlessly. Back to Oh Soo, he’s savvy, real savvy! Which makes it harder to understand how he incurs all that debt. But he does. And this forces him into a desperate situation. Again, Jo In-sung’s interpretation is impeccable and the conniving Oh Soo, although nervous at times, is easy to see as a charismatic and self-assured young man.

Oh Young in contrast initially comes across as a cold-hearted, privileged spoilt rich girl, but fragile at the same time. Song Hye-kyo exposed her brilliance in her art by conveying the very essence of Oh Young – behind the façade she had created to protect herself from the harshness of the world, is this demure wounded soul, cracked and broken by the misery she has suffered and the tragedies she endured in her short life. Song Hye-kyo occupied this role almost as if it was specifically written for her.

The life themes underlying most scenes and interactions are tough to contemplate in the real world but easier to digest through this drama. Addiction, whether to gambling and the seedier realities of thug life or to your own emotions, can create a plethora of problems and health issue. Desperation (enough to convince a person their only solution is to deceive and con those around them) and depression (enough that you’re willing to contemplate taking your own life to escape). Also, at play is abandonment, a very real world problem – people are abandoned or neglected every day across the globe.

As much as the act of abandoning a child or a loved one is despicable, the long-term ramifications can be life-altering as it is for both Oh Soo and Oh Young. Nuanced performances regarding abandonment gave us the viewers a glimpse into the reality of what can happen to an abandoned child.

Also at play are pity, empathy and sympathy. The distinct differences between the characters you pity and those you have empathy or sympathy for are as distinct as the emotions themselves. The entire cast managed to coerce these emotions from their viewers. Well played!

These themes and emotions play an integral part in understanding how our characters develop their relationship with each other. Oh Young lets her wall down which brings to the surface her possible depression that drives the suicidal tendencies. On the other hand, Oh Soo who desperately wants to live and succeed struggles to understand Oh Young’s death wish. At some point, he realises the extent of his plan and that using Oh Young as a pawn to save his own life, is wrong because she needs protection and care, especially for herself. And this is where the friendship they have grown into together blossoms into love. And that is all I am saying about these two characters now, you’ve got to watch the drama to formulate your own ideas and opinions.

Can I also quickly write about Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome? Well, I’m going to anyway!

I saw a number of comments floating around about this drama related to Wang Hye-ji, Oh Young’s caretaker and secretary. Without giving away exactly what it is she did to Oh Young as a young child, believe me when I say Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, is a real form of child abuse. The drama suggests that Wang Hye-ji is a sufferer, maybe mildly so. And she is perfectly positioned by Oh Young’s father, her former lover, to provide (control) all aspects of Oh Young’s life – her health, her finances, her safety. Bae Jong-ok was brave to take on this role and acted well as the ‘evil’ mothering-type who conspires marrying off her charge to maintain control of the wealth and power through manipulating both Oh Young and her potential husband.  It is understandable that she forces a child-like dependency from Oh Young. Bae Jong-ok was incredible in this role. I wanted to hate her, and I did, but then I pitied her and I feel pity is stronger than hate. That Bae Jong-ok’s performance could have that strong of an effect speaks to the fine performance she produced.

My writing would not be complete without paying tribute to Oh Soo’s partner in crime (literally) and loyal friend Park Jin-sung played by the vibrant Kim Bum. He delivers swag and attitude through his character in that roguish semi-serious but downright authentic manner that Kim Bum is becoming renowned for. Oh Soo and Jin-sung share this epic bromance (of course!), where the two are fiercely loyal to each other and seek each other out for confirmation and affirmation. Oh Soo encourages Jin-sung to leave the gambling behind, that is how much he cares for his brother and how much his character matures during the drama. And, while the bromance is a classic, it is not central to the plot of the drama.

I also just have to state that I think Kim Bum is being typecast. He always plays the partner in a bromance. I’m waiting to see him play a leading role, one written specifically for him and his bubbly personality.

oh! sidekick

An honourable mention and shout-out to the last character I’m, going to write about. Moon Hee-sun with all her quirkiness brought to life by Jung Eun-ji, played sidekick to Jin-sung. This amazing tomboyish safe-cracking florist who is shrewd and savvy, while being cute at the same time balanced the drama’s seriousness with a little comic relief. Jung Eun-ji portrayed the petulant and jealous frenemy to Oh Soo with charm and skill.

oh! … that’s a wrap

If you haven’t understood yet that I was enthralled and totally immersed in this drama, then, I haven’t done my justice to my job. I guarantee that you will face utterly contrasted emotions throughout but they will lead your heart and mind to a revered silence, and that is the beauty of this drama. I also guarantee that you will become an enthusiastic fan of the original soundtrack!

You will enjoy this drama if you can appreciate the simplicity and a gentleness that arises when the writing, cinematography, acting, and music all converge to create a realistic love story.

oh! tidbits

Jo In Sung injured his hand during the shooting of a scene for the drama on February 4, 2013. He went to a local hospital to get 13 stitches for to the cut. He returned to continue shooting immediately after.

Oh Young’s beautiful mansion was, in fact, the Jade Garden arboretum in Gangwon Province. Her flower garden was filmed at the Hantaek Botanical Garden in Gyeonggi Province.

The various scenes set in a coffee shop were shot at the Nonhyeon-dong and Cheongdam-dong branches of coffee shop franchise De Chocolate Coffee.

Scenes from the drama were parodied by sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live Korea.

Song Hye-kyo sponsored the cost of the publication of guidebooks for the blind, a project organised by Seo Kyoung-duk to address a need for guidebooks at local museums

oh! soundtrack

oh! … gallery

Most of the photos are publicity shots, with some from the drama itself.

oh! trailers


oh! nooz

Zo In Sung of ONE Drama That Winter, The Wind Blows

That Winter, the Wind Blows” actor Zo In Sung flatters the ladies during Singapore visit last month

Zo In Sung of ONE Drama That Winter, The Wind Blows Set for a Date with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore

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