Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Thank you for joining me on this group watch of Secret Love Affair! 🥰
Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question.
We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Secret Love Affair OST – Four Hands
In case you’d like to drown in the music as you read the episode notes, here’s Four Hands, one of Show’s iconic instrumentals that we hear featured right away in this set of episodes.
I love it for how it swirls around you and whirls in your head, and ultimately gets under your skin. Tingles, truly.
Just right-click on the video and select “Loop.”
It’s been a full 7 years since I watched this show, and just dipping my toes into it now, in episode 1, I’m immediately struck by how.. intoxicating it is, right away.
As I watched this episode, it occurred to me that this show is so rich, that if I were to attempt to talk about every little detail, these episode notes would end up being way too long.
I remember all over again, why I’d chosen to highlight only selected things in my review of the show, while choosing to focus mainly on our main characters, Hye Won and Sun Jae.
I realize that I’ll have to do the same, in order to make these episode notes somewhat efficient, but what I’ll attempt to do, is perhaps point out some other details, that I didn’t include in my review.
For example, Show does a wonderfully intricate job of demonstrating to us, just how different Hye Won’s and Sun Jae’s worlds are.
In my review, I highlighted the difference in lighting and sound; Hye Won’s world is mood-lit with gentle, warm lighting, and there’s almost always some classical music in the background, providing a bit of ambience, while Sun Jae’s world is lit in harsh fluorescent tones, and instead of mood music, there are busy, harsh sounds of traffic.
Another thing I noticed on this viewing, is just how shabby Sun Jae’s house is, compared to the house where Hye Won lives.
Hye Won’s house is polished and elegant, and she has a housekeeper to help her, whereas Sun Jae’s front door is shrouded in cheap plastic wrap; a humble attempt at keeping out the cold, which the door itself is clearly not capable of doing, on its own.
Show gives us a clear introduction to Hye Won and her world, this episode. Hye Won is clearly a very capable and competent woman, who is graceful and elegant, but also, gracious and pleasant as a general rule.
She’s clearly existing in a very difficult space. She has to pander to the whims and fancies of the rich and powerful – and yet, has to have the boldness to keep them in line, at the same time. How do you do both, at the same time?
It sounds like a highly unreasonable ask, and yet, that’s exactly what Hye Won does, for a living.
She has to dig President Seo out of bed, where she’s passed out after a night with her young toy boy, and she has to get President Seo to cooperate, when President Seo absolutely doesn’t want to cooperate.
It’s such a tough thing to do, and although it doesn’t surprise me that President Seo responds by slapping Hye Won, it does feel quite awful, that this is the kind of territory that comes with the job.
Of course, this begs the question of why Hye Won would subject herself to this kind of life, where she’s at the beck and call of these moody rich people, and married to a whiny schmuck for strategic purposes.
From what we can see this episode, it boils down to ambition. Even though Hye Won demurs when Madam Han asks if she isn’t interested in President Seo’s position, Hye Won later mutters to herself that of course she is.
And she’s got the talent for it, too. It didn’t occur to me during my first watch, but Hye Won demonstrates, this episode, that she’s great at mahjong.
I don’t play mahjong myself, but I’m told that it’s a game that is relatively easy to play, but is hard to be really good at; that it requires a great deal of strategic thinking, and you need to be able to read your opponents’ tiles from the various moves that they make, and you also need to anticipate their moves, before they make them.
You basically need to keep a lot of information straight in your head while playing, and that information evolves and changes over the course of the game, as players trade their mahjong tiles.
With Hye Won displaying such excellent mahjong-playing abilities, we can see already, that she’s a shrewd and talented woman, who has what it takes, to make it in the dog-eat-dog world in which she works.
One thing that I find very interesting about Hye Won, is how pleasant and patient she is with her husband Joon Hyung, who is far from likable, as far as I’m concerned. I’d kind of expected that things would be more businesslike between them, since they are clearly in a business arrangement sort of marriage.
However, she does take pains to pacify him, and talk to him nicely, even when she’s exhausted from her day.
I feel like to Hye Won, this marriage is as much as part of her job, as her actual job is. It’s telling, in the way she remarks to the housekeeper, that nothing is easy, and it’s also telling, in the way she tells Sun Jae in their anonymous online chat, that even her real name is fake.
It feels like Hye Won’s entire life is a job to her, where she has to put on her armor, and show up, and be as perfect and faultless as possible. It’s exhausting, just to watch her.
I think that that’s why Hye Won, in her exhaustion – and perhaps slightly tipsy from the two beers she’d drunk – chats with Sun Jae while pretending to be someone completely other than herself.
It’s rather ironic, isn’t it, that it’s behind a fake name, with a fake description, where Hye Won feels most relaxed. That furthers the idea even more, that Hye Won’s life is exhausting. It’s easier and more relaxing, for her not to be herself.
The thing that comes through to me about Hye Won, through all of this, is that she does seem to truly love music. She seems regretful that she’d had to stop playing, and also, she is drawn to talent when she sees it.
She’s credited as the one who’d spotted Min Woo’s talent, and given him the chance to study with Professor Jo. And, when she sees Sun Jae’s playing in that online video, she’s immediately drawn to that, too. She may not have the opportunity to dwell in her passion for music, but she does love it.
As a side note, I just wanted to say that I’m quite impressed by Madam Han, in that she really does appear to be on top of her game.
She’s all composure and elegance, but then there’s also how she grabs Young Woo by the hair, for daring to suggest that Chancellor Min is her lover, and then literally sticks Young Woo’s face in the toilet. Madam Han is not to be messed with, for sure.
And then when Young Woo lashes out at her at the spa center, and basically throws a bit of an embarrassing tantrum, Madam Han maintains her composure, and when Young Woo’s left the room, she just smiles, “She’s cute, isn’t she?”
I mean. That just defuses everything that Young Woo’s put anger and energy into expressing. It takes Young Woo from fierce dragon to upset puppy, without much effort at all. That’s pretty masterful, I thought.
We learn less about Sun Jae this episode, compared to Hye Won, but I do still appreciate the attention to detail that we get. Immediately, from the way Sun Jae refuses to give Joon Hyung’s assistant a discount for the delivery, we can see that he’s no pushover.
I appreciate that Sun Jae doesn’t actually say anything, and just looks at him, until he fishes out the correct delivery fee.
Also, there’s the way Sun Jae’s so entranced by that grand piano in the auditorium. The way he peeks through the curtains (again, such a great representation of how Sun Jae is an outsider looking in, unbidden, at Hye Won’s world), with such a sense of awe and rapture in his eyes, says so much, about how music is so important to his soul.
In this scene, at first, I’d thought that Sun Jae was looking at Hye Won, because she really is quite incandescent. However, it’s only after his gaze remains riveted, even after Hye Won and the others have left the auditorium, that I realized that it was the piano that had captured his heart.
Ahhh. That feels so pure, truly.
Clearly, Sun Jae’s drawn to that piano like a moth to a flame. I’m sure he knows that he’s not supposed to touch it, but that piano must have called out to him like a siren song, and I imagine that Sun Jae must have wandered over and started playing, even before he realized it.
I do love that those who hear him, immediately recognize his talent. That definitely gives us a flavor for the kind of gift that Sun Jae has.
I do love the way Yoo Ah In is playing Sun Jae; there’s such a richness to his delivery. When Sun Jae’s gazing at the piano from behind the curtain, there’s such a wistfulness, desire and hunger in his gaze.
And then, when he’s hiding in the bathroom stall, the sweaty, nervous ticks that he displays, show us so clearly, just how anxious he is, in the moment.
And so, when Sun Jae finally comes face to face with Hye Won at the end of the episode, I feel like I can already feel how he feels, as he takes in the sight of her, luminous in her own living room.
I feel like he remembers her from the auditorium, and combining the memory of her music expertise with her tangible presence in front of him, I’m guessing that he sees her as a goddess, right away; he just seems so nervous and so.. in awe.
Ahhh. The meeting of Hye Won and Sun Jae is so absorbing, and so telling.
Sun Jae comes across as so artless and so pure; clearly, his love is for music. His soul thrives on it. And when Hye Won asks him to play, it’s not something that he can just switch on, just like that.
The long moment that he takes, to prepare his heart – his soul – feels so important and so fundamental to how the music eventually flows out of his fingers. In fact, you can practically see it flowing first from his soul, then through his body, and then out of his fingers.
It’s just so deeply, organically a part of him.
And then there’s when the music reaches Hye Won. It feels like the life that the music carries – from Sun Jae’s soul – is reigniting her heart; rekindling a certain something that’s been dormant for a long time.
I feel like with her immersion in the world of the Foundation, Hye Won’s lost touch with how music moves her soul, and now, as she listens to Sun Jae play, and feels the pure emotion carried in his music, she remembers all over again, how it feels to be absorbed into the music to become one with it.
From Hye Won’s expression, it feels like a surprise to her, that she could ever feel this way again. She smiles; she cries.
This moment feels special; precious; elevated; it feeds her soul so much, that she doesn’t even require food for sustenance, even after listening to Sun Jae play for the entire day.
The duet that Hye Won and Sun Jae play, feels like such an intimate event. What strikes me about this, is how well they play together, without ever having done it before. They fall in sync with each other immediately, and stay in sync, all the way through to the end.
It feels like a mirror to a courtship, with some parts feeling playful, and others, more thoughtful, and everything then culminating in an emotional, breathless sort of climax.
It feels like a metaphor for physical intimacy, except this feels more transcendent, and more precious, like their souls have met in some other realm, and for a moment, become united as one.
It’s mesmerizing and quite spellbinding, and it’s clear to see that it’s not just in my imagination. Hye Won and Sun Jae both feel it too; that’s why their goodbye is a little hasty and awkward – but not before Hye Won gives him that pinch on the cheek, as her special mark of praise.
To Hye Won’s credit, she keeps it professional, but in the aftermath, as she unwinds alone, and sits with her cup of tea, she comes across as a woman recently undone, basking in the afterglow of an intimately satisfying encounter.
And Sun Jae, like Hye Won, is so completely filled in his soul, from their encounter, that not only does he not require food, he doesn’t require sleep either. The way he practically hugs himself with tearful joy (see, he laughs and cries too, just like Hye Won), as his mind goes over again, Hye Won’s various indications of approval and praise.
I love that he’s able to pick up on the subtle hints, like when she requests him to play a section again, not because there’s anything wrong with how he’d played it the first time, but because she’d wanted to listen to it again.
It really feels like Sun Jae’s in a cloud of bliss, as he stands there on that bridge, playing everything all over again, on the railings, remembering what it had felt like, to have Hye Won play next to him, long into the night, and into the dawn of the morning. It’s clearly such a deeply moving, joyful, fulfilling experience for him.
The aftermath, as Hye Won and Sun Jae each come back to reality, feels like a bit of a wake up call for us as viewers, too, I feel.
Back at work, Hye Won has to deal with all the politicking between Young Woo and Madam Han, and the accusations of selling admissions that Young Woo’s trying to drag her into.
Like most chaebol power plays tend to do, it all kinda reminds of the types of machinations that you see in the royal courts in sageuks. It’s not pretty, basically. And contrasted with the sublimity of Hye Won’s and Sun Jae’s meeting of souls, this feels rather jarring.
But the reality is, if Sun Jae is to have a chance to study piano at Seohan University, and grow as a pianist, he will have to enter this glamorous, dirty world that Hye Won’s living in.
And, as we’ve seen so far, Sun Jae’s a pure, pure soul. Even right now, without knowing him very well, I feel like Sun Jae stepping into Hye Won’s world, is going to be uncomfortable and problematic.
Hye Won is the consummate professional, positioning Sun Jae’s admission to Seohan University as a way to counter the rumors of unfair admissions. If I didn’t know any better, I’d believe that she has no personal interest in Sun Jae; she’s that businesslike about it.
When I say personal interest, though, I don’t mean romantic. I honestly don’t think Hye Won sees Sun Jae in a romantic light. I think that she sees him as a very special, gifted musician, whose music touches her soul.
On the other hand, it does seem like Sun Jae sees Hye Won more as a woman than she sees him as a man.
He looks noticeably bothered to learn that Hye Won is married to Joon Hyung, and he seems much more self-conscious about his home, when he’d appeared pretty matter-of-fact about it before, when he’d been cleaning it in anticipation of Joon Hyung’s visit.
I can’t roll my eyes hard or far enough, at the way Joon Hyung just scuttles out of there, abandoning Hye Won in a moment of need, because he’s more conscious of his own fear of mice, than of her need for assistance, to get that makeshift mousetrap off her foot.
Ugh. He’d struck me as useless and whiny in episode 1, but this really takes it to another level, doesn’t it? 🙄
In contrast, Sun Jae’s reaction is all about Hye Won. He’s clearly very anxious and nervous, but there’s no running away, from him. He’s all jitters, but he gets that mousetrap off Hye Won’s foot – and then grabs her in a princess-carry. Ooh. Well, that tells us something about how Sun Jae feels, doesn’t it?
I don’t think that Sun Jae’s even thinking about anything else in this moment; he just desperately wants to help Hye Won’s foot feel better, and he wants to make sure she’s safe too.
It’s just that, in this moment, when there is absolutely no artifice at play, I feel that we get a quick but distinct glimpse at Sun Jae’s true feelings – and I do think that he very much sees Hye Won as a woman.
WHERE TO WATCH:
Available for free on Viki.
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Hi everyone, these are BE‘s comments, which he emailed to me before going in for surgery. He’ll be back with us sometime next week, do keep him in your thoughts! ❤️
First, after rewatching the first two episodes a couple of times, I want to express how grateful I am that we are having Secret Love Affair as a group watch. I found myself thoroughly savoring the complex artistry on display in episode one, and for the how many’th time I fell in love again with Seon Jae and Hye Won, the two of them together, in episode 2. I love the visual compostions, the musical themes, which are so romantic, dramatic, stirring. I did in the post K put up announcing the group watch dramas give five tips for viewing lenses for the first episode, and if it helps you could go back and check those comments out.
I really love this ensemble, the big support players–particularly Park Euk Won as Hye Won’s fully fleshed out harlequin husband, Professor Kang in everyone of his annoyingly mediocre personae; Kim Hye Eun as that hot mess of paranoid stress, who puts the mack in the jang, and the jang in her mak–doncha all love those tight leapard skin pants and super high heels, the big gold disc at the bottom of her necklace bouncing against her bare midhriff, ah, the darling, disgusting, physically and verbally abusive CEO, Yeong Woo, daughter of the Chairman, envious of everyone, to see the hair across her face in bed, bareshouldered next to her pretty boy young gigalo as Hye Won opens the curtains, mmmmn. Hello CEO Seo, what an unpleasant person are you.
The Big Fox, and even more abusive, when she wants to be–I mean slapping and tossing water in the face is one thing, waterboarding in a toilet quite another: Madame Han–but that woman is sly, wily, and can still move around in style Hye Won, let alone Yeong Woo, could only dream of, and evil in ways Yeong Woo has not yet the nails to scratch out. The two of them, Hye Won’s bosses–personal assistant to the great big pointy toe in heels up the butt, Yeong Woo, and financial fixer and confidante of the really dangerous, Han Seong Sook, against and with whom, Hye Won is definitely playing a high stakes game of Mah Jongg banter.
And in contrast to those two, Park Da Mi, played by Kyung Soo Jin, who both works for these women, trying to raise herself up the ladder to becoming …what? a cosmetic stylist, a spa manager, an unseen witness to the everyday shenanigans that must go on at that spa, and dotes all over Seon Jae, taking for granted, perhaps a bit foolishly, she is Seon Jae’s girlfriend, street wise, straight talking, and you can see it with his mother, a really kind person at heart, a sweetheart, who is more than touched by Hye Won remembering her name, and young…like Seon Jae.
Then there are the more minor characters. I have to say I have a special feeling for Professor Park’s gopher grad student, the ever hapless, Sin Jong Soo–ah can you imagine what it must be like to be Professor Kang’s teaching assistant? Oy vey, the two of them! Kim Chang Wan–this was the first thing I had seen him in–so cool about being such an archetypal slimy college Dean, just perfect academic administrator double talking with a straight face.And the two secretaries, Hye Won’s secretary, the sweet, cheerful, and very perfect assistant for the endlessly put upon Hye Won, Se Jin, played by that durable K drama support actor, Jang So Yeon, and Seong Sook’s edgier front person, Secretary Wang, played by another K Drama regular, whose range as a character actor is pretty amazing, Baek Ji Won. Secretary Wang, as we also find out, in episode two went to Arts high school with CEO Seo and Hye Won, where they all met, and as she complains, Yeong Woo is CEO, Hye Won is Institute Director, Wang, however is both becoming a spinster and remains but an assistant to the big boss, the difference in salary, let alone status…well then. I also admit to being a bit sweet on Hye Won’s gal pal Jin Soo, the wholesome and loving wife to Professor Jeo In Seo, and mother to their four children, played by Yoon Bok In.
For me one of the real purposes of how the show sets itself up in episode one, and to a lesser degree in episode two, is to introduce us to all these characters and a couple more, in order for us to get a feel for the different worlds each character, but more particularly Hye Won, lives in, so we can see for ourselves what Seon Jae sees and does not see, and the price Hye Won is paying to be the institute director and follow her passion, which is clearly music, especially piano music.
I know this can be a bit overwhelming, almost numbingly so in episode one for someone watching for the first time, or even the second, but the unlikeliness of Hye Won and Seon Jae’s meeting, let alone anything beyond that, Seon Jae almost a cinderella, Hye Won, a prince charming, but their real lives being depicted making this fairy tale tableau of coincidences seem real, and for that realism, all the more romantic. And yet from the moment Seon Jae first gets on his motorcycle and Hye Won is taking notes talking to Madame Han being massaged into sleepiness at the spa until he arrives at her home on her day off, all the glamor worn off her, just a simple white shirt and jeans, hair back in a long pony tail, but still, and this is Kim Hee Ae, has anyone, anywhere looked better in clothing than Kim Hee Ae, whether it’s wrapping that long scarf/sarong around her waist, or that white scarf against her dark dress next to the piano where Seon Jae first espied her, peeking out from the curtain, there it is shaggy young Seon Jae–does he comb his hair?–and the elegant Hye Won, turning her back to him, telling him to follow her. And the music that follows.
The theme of transgression: this story is one about what on the surface should be a transgressive relationship. Certainly when Hye Won upbraids Yeong Woo for her propensity for young men half her age, Hye Won, herself, expresses the distaste for such goings on. But the very first transgression comes after Seon Jae, peeking through the curtain like a thief or a stalker, comes down and sits at that really high priced concert piano and plays, improvising a solo, on the piece just played as a duet. And boom, he is in trouble. He is frightened. He could get arrested, go to jail. But to play that piano. The scene in the bathroom is both wonderfully comedic between Professor Kang–Professor Kang has found his miracle mentee in toilet stall!–and dramatic, poor Seon Jae nervous half out of his wits–you want to know why Yoo Ah In is so admired, just watch his facial expressions and body language in this scene–so expressive. And yet…this transgression is the catalyst for everything that will ensue. Ah, the daring of artistry!
So let us talk a bit more about Yoo Ah In. At the beginning of the second episode, how patiently he plays the whole scene. One can see the amazement as he looks around Hye Won’s entry–the contrast between his own everyday digs (a contrast echoed later when Kang and Hye Won come to visit him and he rushes to pull his underwear off the line and bannister in his humble house with egg cartons stapled to the walls for sound, and if one looks closely, one can notice the slight enjoyment Hye Won takes in taking his utilitarian, homey little space in, or think of the two staircases, the precarious but elegant one in Hye Won’s house, the sturdy but somewhat frightening one at Seon Jae’s), and the grand and elegant, artistic but empty spaciousness of her home. Then when she confronts him–now think how intimidated he must be, and think how Yoo Ah In plays it, so perfect, puzzled, a bit set upon, thoroughly overmatched. And when she gets him in the piano room and demands he play…19, and as we see quite quickly the only way Seon Jae knows how to play is to make love, make long, slow, fast, tender, aggressive, ecstatic love to his instrument. To risk so much, to be so exposed and with that woman, before that woman. How patiently Yoo Ah In plays this scene, unable to start until he has literally run out of time and then begins. There are a lot of scenes where he is just wonderful, the scene on the bridge, the scene in his bed. 19 years old, and he has just met this woman, this unearthly sophisticated woman, beyond whatever his dreams had ever been, with whom he can pour out his love and passion AND she really digs it. Just bravo!
Kim Hee Ae. Director Oh Hye Won. My goodness what a complex woman she portrays. She can hold her own with really unscrupulous people, sometimes being unbelievably abusive without losing her aplomb. Witty, funny, insofar as human to human relations quite humane and certainly kind by contrast with the people she serves. And smart, both emotionally and intellectually. She can get Yeong Woo to her photo shoot, and work Seong Sook’s stock options. She can beat both of them and all the cheobol men at mah jongg, and do so with admirable bravado, one moment, and pull the Big Fox off Yeong Woo, keeping her from drowning her step daughter in a toilet, then come home take a breather, and soothe her husband’s petty foul moods. And she has a real ear for music, a passion for music, a love for music, the why it seems along perhaps with the money she must be putting up with these horrible people. The way she responds to Seon Jae’s playing, man, that was as erotic a set of scenes in her expressive joy, thrill, ecstasy, at being undone by him as any love scene I have seen in any K Drama and far, far more passionate than 99% of them. The first time and every time since I have seen this show, that scene convinced me…you can say what you will about the unlikeliness of the two of them, of the transgressive nature of such a pair, but when you see them together, playing together, the two of them make you feel it, make you want to root for the two of them in spite of it all. And I will say it again, Kim Hee Ae defines rocking an outfit.
How Hye Won and Seon Jae met and fell in love.
Show is so rich, there is much more of course to say, but I do not think I will get a chance to chime in again before the next post, so this will have to do. Do savor this show, my best advice; it is so good.
@BE I hope you’re doing well and wish you a swift and full recovery. Thank you for taking the time to contribute.
These are some great insights and a wonderful supplement to KFG’s episode notes. I think you’ve hit many nails on the head, and look forward to further insights down the line. Be well!
@BE This is a fantastic breakdown of so many things that Show does so well! I understand what you mean when you say that there is much more that you could say. It really is so well conceived and so richly executed, with so many thoughtful details. Lots to mine, for sure!
I hope you’re recovering well from your surgery, and like Trent, I look forward to more of your insights, as we progress through this watch together! ❤️
@BE – ditto for me as well – hope you are hanging in and getting better every day – I really appreciate this comment BE. It totally rocks.
Feel better, BE! We need your astute, lengthy sentence, pithy comments!! xx
BE, wishing you a quick recovery and minimal discomfort. sending you compassion and peace.
@BE – I took some time to go back to the 5 points from your previous comment (which was very well written) and carefully re-read them. You picked up the messages behind the clothing (#3) and it was the first thing I noticed. I noticed it in the women’s clothing – that plain, well-cut, timeless, high-end design. That two piece orange dress on Han Sung-Sook in E2- gorgeous.
I appreciated the range of emotion Yoo Ah In displayed while in the piano room. I noticed that he did a micro shake of his head (twice) as if to fend off the trepidation he must have been feeling. YAI is a mixture of child, man and wild beast all rolled into one. He is, imho, the one of the best actors in SK, neck and neck with Jang Hyuk. Two different vibes, but both magnificent in their own right.
I believe that there can be an artistic soul mate relationship which transcends age. This is when two people can meet and truly understand each other’s ‘art’. They feed off each other and grow in a positive fashion as a result. They can each be good in their own right, but are ultimately better together by creating a new intense artistic energy.
It has been many years since I watched this drama and I have forgotten much of the details so this is almost a new watch for me. Looking forward to more of your comments.
i believe a ” soul mate relationship which transcends age…” can happen to any two people regardless of their connection to the arts, although the art does have a special power that can bond two individuals in a very special way, as art does not require to share the same language (it speaks it’s own language), or social status, or age, etc.
in regards to yai, – he blows my mind, of all my favorite actors, he is the one who can express EMOTIONS “as tall as a mountain and as deep as the ocean”. after seeing him in “burning” and “secret love affair” i am of course on a trip of finding all i can of his work and him in general (as is my habit always, when i fall in love with any form of art or artist). so i just finished recently watching “the throne”. it literally left me speechless and parts of my heart are still scattered somewhere on the floor. it is a very difficult, emotionally draining, extremely PAINFUL movie, but yai as the crown prince is nothing less than smashing – probably the best ever.
the topic of a father-son relationship or parent-child relations is explored from a very interesting and all encompassing perspective, especially when it happens in a royal family (remember the dual nature of emperor- subject and father-son prince chu relationship in trop) – and emotions that it generates in father and son are relatable even in our times. i will not go further into details, but anybody who appreciates and loves yai, must see this movie, it’s a korean cinematography jewel, and a top achievement for yai. the last 15 minutes of this movie will shake your foundation, especially if you are a parent.
Eda – The Throne is my favorite YAI work. It is hard to watch but the acting is spectacular. I actually gasped at several points in the movie. It inspired me to read Prince Sado’s wife’s memoirs in which she confirms his descent into madness. If you feel so inclined here is the book title – The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyong: The Autobiographical Writings of a Crown Princess of Eighteenth-Century Korea. It has tons of detail on palace life and life in general at that time. Fascinating read.
phl1rxd and trent, thank you so much for all of this information, definitely SS is now on the top of my long list of what to do and what to watch (hope i can take with me this list into my next reincarnation). i did a little research on that period in korean history and about prince sado in particular. it seems that the director of “throne” and/or you ah in have chosen to portray his character from a slightly (or may be not so slightly) different perspective or understanding. this movie has chosen not to concentrate on his evil doings as the history has it, but from a rather compassionate point of view, to show the root of the problem and how a parent’s doing can totally destroy a son’s psyche. i was totally rooting for this prince and hated the abuse that he was subjected to. and again, everything that you both are telling me sounds incredibly interesting, thanks again and i will follow up on those. god, where can i get the time to do all this?!
Eda – I have to laugh when you state that you may have to take your drama list to the next life. I think I will need two more lifetimes to catch up on my list. 🤣😂😅😆 My list is that ‘out of control’ humongous. I start a lot of dramas but do not always finish them because, well, other new and shiny dramas! It is a never ending cycle. 🙄
hei, let’s agree to compare notes in our next 2 reincarnations, that’s of course if there is such a thing.
Will do Eda!
i just have to add that now i appreciate even more prince of chu, that he succeeded to stay sane, on top of his game and become emperor in spite of having to survive the extra manipulative emperor dad and everything around him. brain power, will power, intense desire to bring good to the empire and the people. sado succumbed. and to know that it really happened to this prince, is bugging me even now, the cruelty of the whole situation and pain.
Eda – I forgot to mention this drama YAI is in – Sungkyunkwan Scandal – I do not know if you have seen it but it definitely a classic. It was very good.
@phl1rxd & @eda harris — interesting thing about YAI vis-a-vis Sungkyunkwan Scandal and The Throne (which I haven’t seen, btw) is that the king in SKKS is King Jeongjo, the son of Prince Sado, the character played by YAI in The Throne. One of the central plot points that motivates the characters in SKKS is
@Trent – I never realized that as I watched them so many years apart. Great factoid there sir!
Yeah, I watched SKKS relatively recently, within the last few months, and it was so heavy on factional fights (in spite of being at heart a campus buddy drama/romance) that I couldn’t help but do a little bit of background reading on the history. So when I saw the description of the plot for The Throne, I was like, wait, I remember this…
Trent – if you ever have an empty afternoon it is worth a watch. YAI is tremendous in this. As Eda points out that the drama really highlights the dynamics between a father and son, made all the more difficult due to different circumstances. It can be a hard watch though so be prepared.
trent and phl1rxd, i have to go back all these days to simply thank you guys for this amazing gift – sungkyunkwan scandal. i would have never watched it without your comments. it truly felt like an elaborate vacation after all these heart breaking, brain racking dramas till now, although it dealt with a multiple very serious, interesting, thought provoking even progressive i would say ideas and topics. and i got some kind of satisfaction or resolution to the throne – watching the son of prince sado actually turning into a quite decent, even sensitive human., who would give up his own dream for a dream of another person, kim yoon hee. i don’t even know why, but it felt like “sweet revenge”.
i wish we would have this drama as one of our group watches, it has a lot of meat for all of us to chew on, i feel.
hope you are still following this thread and will see it.
i already started, it is so cute. love it. thanks.
EH… if you remember the scene where Prince Sado was hitting his head on the pavement in front of his father…I read where YAI actually injured his forehead to the point that it did bleed but he continued the scene because of the realism it brought. And I’ll recommend Tough As Iron, Veteran and Punch.
as i said, all that yai does is not just playing a character, he becomes the character. so i can believe that he injured himself like this – you could hear the thumping of his head.
but thanks for the suggestions, i already added it to my list. hope i live a long life…to utilize the list.
Hello Kfangurl and Everyone here! I am happy that you are doing a re-watch of this gorgeous show. Thank you for doing this and for your wonderful recap. This gives me a venue to share my thoughts. This is my first time ever to comment on a blog about any kind tv show, to be honest. Before watching this, I was a relative newbie to Kdrama, only having previously reluctantly watched one other show as the prodding of friends. After this show, I became an instant fan of both YAI and KHA as I found their acting so sublime. YAI in particular was a revelation to me. I was moved by how he acted as Sun Jae. The way he gazed at the stage from behind the curtains was filled with so much longing as the outsider looking into a world far beyond his reach. After seeing the first episode where the realities of the characters were set, I could imagine how isolated and lonely Sun Jae must have been growing up, despite the love of his mom and friends. I could imagine that yes they knew he could play the piano well, but that nobody truly understood the depths of his musicality and talent – things that were intrinsic to his identity. In his reality, his interest in classical music must have looked frivolous if not outright weird to his friends. I particularly am moved by the scenes after their duet in the piano room when he was running down the hill both crying and laughing in total disbelief and so wired that he replayed the piano playing on the bridge. For the first time in his life, he felt “seen”. To me that was beautifully shot. YAI can show a range of micro expressions on his face. When he realized that Hye Won was someone else’s wife (when she alighted from the professor’s car) , his expression changed from happy to disappointed to deference so quickly that I missed it on my first watch. On the other hand, Hye Won was also superbly played by KHA. I loved her subtle graceful portrayal of how Hye Won juggled her roles in her world. How frustrating it must be for her that she had to pander not only to her bosses but also to the ego of her husband. The fact that her young boss just slapped her and she continued on matter of factly was shocking to me. She tried to initiate affection to her husband but he just brushed her off. Both of them seem like lonely people to me. The OST of this show is so lovely by the way. I look forward to the rest of the group watch and to reading your reactions to the show.
Fangurl – fabulous review of E1 and 2. There is not too much to add here as so many commenters have summed their thoughts and feelings up quite nicely already. I am delighted to see additional links to piano pieces and articles on the drama and I am listening to one as I type this comment. Thank you for all of those links everyone!
I do feel quite badly for Hye Won who bears through her life with a lot of unnecessary roughness but I feel that she does this to stay close to her true love – music. The foul females of that chaebol family are over the top and hubby is a ineffective, big baby. It must take a inordinate amount of self control to keep her from leaving.
I only want to add in a little tidbit because, well, it really confused me, In E2 when she steps on the mouse trap (also known as glue boards or glue traps) I could not understand why it was so painful. I have never seen anything like it before. It turns out, beside a long, slow and painful death, the animal is exposed to the glue used in the traps ‘which is caustic, creating a painful burn to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes of rodents.’ I do hope that Yoo Ah In washes her foot off in E3!
in regards to the glue, i do not think that such harsh chemicals are used in usa or europe. but not sure.
in regards to hye won true reason for tolerating all this crap, it will be disclosed by her herself later. (i of course saw the whole drama already and not once.) stay tuned.
@Eda Because your answer to phl1rxd’s question constitutes a small spoiler, I’ve included a spoiler tag for your comment.
Feel free to use them as needed, going forward. Simply highlight the text that you want to hide with the spoiler tag (preferably in its own paragraph), and the click the [+] icon and then name your spoiler. That’s it! 😊
thanks kfangirl. i have to confess, i am a bit “electronically retarded”, so it is difficult for me to figure out those kind of things sometimes. but i’ll try… but if i fail, i apologize in advance. i’ll just try to avoid spoilers.
Hi Eda – I am quite eager to know why she tolerates all of it. To be honest I cannot remember what happens in this drama as I watched it so many years ago. Glad to hear this will eventually be revealed!
I liked Hye Won right away, precisely because of her shrewdness and the way she calls the shots and has the intuition for true talent. Sun Jae’s had less focus, but I already feel for him and what being recognized means for him — a chance to do what he loves instead of just trying to survive and pay off his family’s debt.
The piano duet between the two was the highlight. I didn’t realize a duet could be so charged like that, even before there was any hint of anything romantic between the two too. I felt that Sun Jae’s attraction to Hye Won was very much wrapped up in his exhilaration of being seen for his piano playing and affirmed in his talent, so much so that I’m curious where this love affair will go and at what point it’ll go beyond this attraction to her that’s wrapped up with the craft (and some for Hye Won’s attraction to him too). The world building is slowly coming together, and I hope to learn more about the politics and backstories between all our characters, like CEO Seo and Madame Han.
Great summary, KFG. I haven’t read all 100+ comments (just don’t have the time now, lol) so I may be treading on already traveled paths.
I’m with you, KFG, in being just blown away by these first two episodes, the pacing, the contrasting of Hye won’s and Sun Jae’s environments and the core of the main characters is revealed as well as the politicking sub-plot. All done in 2 episodes, setting the stage for the story to begin.
And the story begins, guy falls in love with piano, notices elegant woman who then falls in love with guy through/or his musical talent (though she doesn’t realize it as yet), guy is surprised to hear she is married but the contrast between this sophisticated woman who appreciates his passion, music, and his hair dresser girlfriend is like night and day. Poor girlfriend, doesn’t stand a chance. FL, in a marriage of some convenience and in a stressful job, wryly remarks to her friends when they say she has a perfect life but do you want to be married to her husband? At which, they all laugh knowingly.
The acting of the leads is phenomenal, KHA is so elegant and cool and her acting is all nuance and class, it almost seems like she would be the same in real life, she’s not acting. YAI is simply superb, I had this little discussion with beez about him when so many were fangirling over Jang Hyuk as I found YAI easily a superior actor, having seen him in Six Flying Dragons, Chicago Typewriter and Sungkyunkwan Scandal and just being awed by his perfomances.
This is setting up to be a story of human frailty, concerning a difficult and sensitive topic. I approach it with an open manner as I find there’s been an interesting shift in my thinking as I aged/matured. When I was younger, I was more tolerant about incompetence and less tolerant of human frailty but today I find myself much more tolerant of human frailty and much less so of incompetence!
hello everyone. goodness, i’m just all over this show. how i want to, once again, sit for the remaining hours on thru dawn watching this drama. it only gets better as these two try to short out their feelings and navigate this tainted world they eventually find themselves in. so agree with what many have said about the performances, the nuances of the writing and directing, and production. this was my first Yoo Ah In and i’ve been a fan ever since. the two most striking scenes for me are…Sun Jae peeking around the curtain..drawn in by the sound of the playing…and seeing Hye Won at the piano. for me, he fell in love with her the instant he saw her…dressed in black and white … the personification of the instrument he loves most…the black and white keys of the piano. the other is when Hye Won calls him ‘that beautiful kid’. the stage is set…lets take this exciting drama and milk each and every scene for all its worth.
The minute Hye Won appeared in that office sans skirt and being so relaxed, practical and matter of fact about it, I was immediately drawn to her… This character is one of the strength of this drama. She is complex and profoundly interesting but I have to admit that Kim Her Ae’s acting choices did bug me on occasion… At times she played Hye Won a tad bit too ethereal and majestic, making her almost unrelatable in moments in which we needed to see her emotions bare, ie. when she listens to Sun Jae for the first time. Even her outfit on that occasion was wrong, I felt. They wanted to make her look casual yet classy and pristine, I’m sure, with those jeans and that half tucked white blouse, but to me she came across more like” rich lady from the burbs going casual” than “effortless elegance”. But maybe this is just me… I also found her ecstatic faces when playing the piano quite cringe. I felt Hye Won should have played the piano in a more demure way: She’s quite the cynic after all. All that throwing back her head in ecstasy looked a bit silly… This actress is amazing otherwise and later on I warmed up to how she delivered the character and her journey, but in the first episodes these things frustrated me quite a lot.
I warmed up to Yoo An In’s acting style form the start. His character was perhaps easier to deliver, although I know he had to come across as much younger than he was at the time, which I imaging was fairly challenging. Unlike Ele Nash though, I didn’t find his facial expression while playing the piano as cringey as I found Kim Her Ae’s. Perhaps this is because Yoo An In appeared completely committed to make his character be a free spirited performer with a profound connection with the music he played.
I’m sure that the majority of viewers here is rooting for this relationship to succeed. I’m too.
@MariaF You should edit this while the edit window is still open. It could be perceived as a spoiler — even though it’s mostly your opinion of how things play out — and many people posting here have not seen the whole show. There’s a little cog icon to the lower right of your comment that you can use to re-open it to edit. But only for a few minutes!
@merij1: I realized that right after I posted it, but I couldn’t edit it, because for some reason my comment disappeared from my view. I couldn’t find it at all. Only now I can see it, along with your response.
No worries! KFG might choose to delete it, or not. It’s really not much of a spoiler, given what anyone might expect from the show’s set-up.
Thanks @merij1! No worries @MariaF, I’ve edited the comment for you, to include a spoiler tag! 😊
mariaf, i can bet with you, that if you would have had a chance to ask sj himself about it, he would have told you that regardless of how his life turns out, he would have never give up THIS experience. many times, suffering can be a catalyst to the most important growth in a person’s life.
@edaharris: I don’t think we can debate this now, because this discussion will lead to spoilers. Hopefully, we’ll come back to this subject later on.
Eda – Amen to that. It is getting through the suffering that is hard, but once you get on the other side you look back and are grateful for the lesson.
Unrelated, in truth, but I’ll use the tie-in that newcomer Su San
just reminded us the director of SLA later directed One Spring Night and Something In the Rain:
The NYT published an article this morning on South Korea’s military conscription program, which is steadily losing favor in SK.
Several people, including a current candidate for president, are quoted saying their shifting opinion was affected by the recent K-drama D.P., starring Jung Hae-in (the ML in OSN and SitR). In that show, many of the deserters the protagonist has to hunt down ran off due to extreme hazing.
Most of you will not be able to get past the NYT paywall, but here’s the link. The name of the article is South Korea Reconsiders a Rite of Manhood: The Draft
The relevant passages:
Earlier this year, a Netflix show critical of conscription became an unexpected hit in South Korea. Called “D.P.,” for deserter pursuit, it followed a fictional private assigned to capture deserters, whose stories portrayed the emotional toll of conscription.
Though the military has said that it would stop dispatching its personnel to capture deserters starting next year, the show resonated with many viewers and even prompted some politicians to weigh in.
Hong Jun-pyo, a candidate in next year’s presidential election and a lawmaker in the opposition People Power Party, said on Facebook that he had watched the show and was in favor of shifting the military to an all-volunteer force.
“What ‘D.P.’ showed was an emblematic picture of why the conscription system has to change,” said Kwon In-sook, a lawmaker in the governing Democratic Party, who added that she supported a transition to an all-volunteer military. “It showed how military culture sometimes completely departs from our basic sensibilities.”
Hundreds of fans on social media said that the abuse it portrayed resonated with their own painful experiences in the military. One viewer said that he was beaten in his chin, cheeks and head and was subjected to abusive language as a private. At one point, he said, things got so bad that he wanted to die.
Nothing meaningful to add here. Everything’s more or less been said in kfangurl’s notes and in the comments. 😀
Btw. there’s a blog dedicated to Secret Love Affair. Nothing too fancy but some additional information, collected in one place. Here’s a link, in case anyone is interested… mind the spoilers though. https://pianoconversations.wordpress.com/
KFG – Here is an interview with the Director of SLA who goes into detail of how they pulled off the piano playing scenes with actor and the professional musicians. Fascinating the amount of details they put into this Show. He discusses how they achieved 100% synchronicity. Amazing.
*****Some Minor Spoilers about upcoming music in later Episodes*************
Director’s Cut: Ahn Pan Seok Speaks on SLA – Part 1https://pianoconversations.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/directors-cut-ahn-pan-seok-speaks-on-sla-part-1-final/
I finally read this article. Very interesting.
Turns out Professor Jo In Seo (the talented and decent guy with an equally talented protege) is not an actor, but rather a true classical pianist. They chose him to minimize the need to fake the piano playing.
Also, the show was always built around Kim Hee-ae as the FL. She even sat in on early discussions about who should play Sun Jae.
If I read it correctly, all the scenes that show Sun Jae’s body at the keyboard are indeed visuals of Yoo Ah In playing, mixed with audio of a professional musician. And the reason this was feasible is that he only had to learn those few seconds worth of each piece.
Others had commented that his fingers looked too slender in some of the piano-playing shots. I’d need to re-watch to confirm, but my guess is that if only the hands were shown, it was not him.
JJ – what an interesting article! I read the entire thing. Thank you for posting.
Thanks to Kfangurl (KFG) for hosting the watch. I’m glad that “Secret Affair” was selected.
The insightful comments on this thread just blow me away. Thanks for sharing as it enhances my viewing experience.
I’m intimidated, but feel I want to share few random impressions:
-I’m a “new-bie,” so please be patient with me. I got a really big kick out of seeing so many cast members from “Something in the Rain” and “One Spring Night” (same director as “Secret Affair”).
-It’s my first time to see this kdrama. It is interesting to read the comments about what it is like to re-watch a favorite kdrama.
-Although KFG rated this kdrama extraodinarly high (A++), I don’t care for stories about adultery so I avoided watching this kdrama now.
-On the other hand, I love a story about musicians as I am a classically trained musican. I even noticed that one of the upright pianos was a Hanil, but a Yamaha is used on-stage. And I didn’t like the professor nagging the small ensemble about tuning in front of him because it seemed unrealistic.
-I loved when Sun-Jae risked playing the Yamaha on-stage. I’ve risked playing a few measures on stage pianos just to touch an exceptional instrument (even in China!) but I’ve never remained on stage as long as Sun-Jae did as I’m fully aware of the consequences. Only in the movies could one get away with it for that long, ha! Besides tuning, keeping the keys clean for the artist is important. It is gross to play piano after someone who was wearing lotion.
It was tough for me to immediately get a handle on the characters so I printed the cast list from Asian-wiki and make notes. Even though academic arts politics will drive the plot, I’m interested to see how the romance is handled since music is such a SPIRITUAL experience.
I agree with Ele Nash about the faces musicians make while playing. Musicians do have natural movements and some even make faces, but these aspects of playing are always exaggerated in films. When actors study to play the part, they learn to represent the motions of playing the piano; they do not actually learn to portray playing at the level of a concert pianist anymore than they would learn to box at the level of a champion.
Looking forward to 3&4.
@Su San Hi, welcome!! I’m just jumping in to say, no need to feel intimidated, this is a judgment-free zone, and all sharing is welcome!
Thanks for sharing your insights as a classically trained musician, that’s definitely helpful with a show like this. Also, I SO agree that music is a spiritual experience. That’s how I see Sun Jae’s and Hye Won’s connection during the duet too; a spiritual connection. ❤️
@Su San – Double Welcome! I am a newbie as well and I can attest this community is very welcoming, supportive and judgement free zone. KFG means it when she says all sharing is welcome. Sometimes I can only manage WOW! AMAZING! YAY! Very detailed thoughts 😉
This is my second watch of this drama and I am glad we have so many people with classical music background to add so much rich detail to this amazing story. I had been completely overwhelmed by the Show during my first watch. I found the music incredible and the story so engrossing that I had a hard time putting into words anything I felt about this show besides – WOW! Incredible! lol.
I read an incredible article out there explaining how the pulled off the technical aspects of having the actors play the piano while the recordings were done by (obviously) trained musicians. I have been searching for this article to share here with everyone and I cannot find the article at moment. ARGH!
Loved your comments. Looking forward to more of them 🙂
Is this the article?
Great link. We have two in circulation now, this one and one with explanations by the director.
FYI, if you post an awesome link and then don’t see any responses for hours, it’s probably due to a security feature where KFG has to approve the comment before it’s visible to others. Seeing that it’s appeared (on a different browser that you’re not logged into for commenting) is one sure way to know that she’s woken up for the day, Singapore-time!
In the article you just posted, my earlier suspicion is confirmed that it’s not Yoo Ah-in in the clips where you don’t see his face:
FYI, Su San’s link also features a video of the actual musicians performing the passionate four hands duet.
@Su San @merij1 @jj – great info and really helpful links. Thanks!
@Su San –
Actually this Article below is what I meant to share with you originally. But the one you asked about is another article as well.
Director’s Cut: Ahn Pan Seok Speaks on SLA – Part 1 https://pianoconversations.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/directors-cut-ahn-pan-seok-speaks-on-sla-part-1-final/
I totally forgot this was the same director/team as Something in the Rain and One Spring Night!
OSN is one of our all-time favorite shows and SitR would have been until it imploded.
@merij1 – I love OSN!!!!! I have watched it three times 🙂 I am watching Padam Padam now per KFG’s suggestion 🙂
Exactly right – SitR totally imploded, excellent word. Total implosion.
OSN is one of only two shows — Korean or Western — that my wife and I chose to watch twice. It’s sooo good!
@merij1 OSN was my 28th Show and had just immediately previously watched Something in the Rain. I have no idea why I gave OSN a chance since SitR imploded so badly for so many reasons. I really am shocked their is a camp that loves SitR. Totally baffled. I can understand why some do not like TKEM or Goblin, but a camp for SitR really baffles me.
The second watch of OSN was because I wanted to pay closer attention to the dialogue and details I missed watching the Subtitles in the first viewing. The third watch was for pure enjoyment. Soooooo gooooood!
I have to say, SitR was really good . . . until it wasn’t.
If it hadn’t been so good I wouldn’t have cared so much and wouldn’t have been so needlessly angry for a few months. lol
@merij1 I so agree that SitR was really good until it wasnt.
I was justifiably angry for months 🙂
p.s. Shahz & I responded to your question on the Drama Exchange and made the new posts and not responses so you wouldnt have to search for them 🙂
@JJ,@merij1: Like you, I’m always amazed when so0meone says how much they loved SITR. In fact, within my small Kdrama watching group, I’m the only one who was really turned off by SITR, specifically the last half as Merij1 says. One group member actually claims SITR is the best ever Kdrama, hard to believe, but to be fair, the group also thought OSN was a really good show.
I just have nightmares thinking of Jin Ah and SITR even though I loved the first half of the show.
@Su San –
Finally found the article I mentioned before in my response to you 🙂 Others have cited it as well, so you may have seen this already –
Director’s Cut: Ahn Pan Seok Speaks on SLA – Part 1 https://pianoconversations.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/directors-cut-ahn-pan-seok-speaks-on-sla-part-1-final/
@Su San – thanks for the little interesting notes on the pianos used and the tuning and cleanliness of the keys. I had no idea about these things. I enjoy reading these.
I have not started the rewatch, but will catch up eventually. I have listened to the soundtrack many times, but it just occurred to me that the music in the opening and in the closing credits present two sides of the story. The opening music, I think, represents, the “secret” part. It is scored for a chamber ensemble, and features a harpsichord, an instrument usually associated with the Baroque period of music history (c. 1600-c. 1750). The whole piece is full of restraint, and yet there is a lot of tension and longing in it too.
In contrast, the music of the closing credits is full of sweeping passion (“love affair.”)The style is that of the Romantic period (c. 1820-?) and the featured instrument is the piano, not the harpsichord.
I like @j3ffc ‘s idea of sharing classical music pieces, so I will share two favorites:
The first is Schubert’s Nocturne, a gentle chamber piece full of dreamy longing:
The second is Waltz from Masquerade Suite by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturyan. It is full of passion and foreboding:
@Snowflower – Thank you so much for your classical music piece suggestions. I am listening to the first one now 🙂 I watched SLA first time by myself based on KFG’s suggestion and she used the words “glorious music” so I was totally in even though the premise was off putting to me. Wow, I am so glad I did not miss this one for the acting and even more so the amazing music.
Thank you for providing more details on the opening and closing music for the Show. I never made the connection until you said something about those pieces. All I knew about them is they made me continue to watch Episode after Episode.
Thank you 🙂
aram khachaturyan is actually a soviet (russian) composer, i mean he was armenian, but born and raised in tbilisi which is georgia, and lived and worked in ussr, since georgia, armenia and a lot of other republics at that time were part of the soviet union. everything at that time was permeated by russian language, culture, politics, etc., thus making him in reality a russian composer.
Oh dear. I’ve spent a few weeks in both Tblisi (Georgia) and Yerevan (Armenia) and I’m pretty sure those would be fighting words in either nation. Probably in Moscow as well, for that matter. Soviet for sure, but Russian? No way!
well, well, i did grow up in one of those soviet republics (not georgia, armenia or azerbaijan though, ( which was independent prior to russia taking it over and now independent as well). i grow up listening to khachaturian on radio very often + recordings, and seeing a concert of his music in leningrad (st. petesburg today). i can tell you, regardless of what nationalistic tendencies those people have today about this issue, at that time soviet was equivalent to russian. everything was based on russian culture (which is very rich), russian literature, music, food, etc. whether you wanted it or not, you were part of russia (although soviet russia, but that’s politics), and in that era, one was more russian than let’s say georgian or armenian… especially that khachaturian was active in the communist party. that does not mean that his music was not influenced by armenian or georgian native sounds, but he was definitely considered russian at that time.
Since you grew up there and I merely visited, I’d say you get the last word on that!
Besides Georgia and Armenia, I spent a week in Moscow, another in Kiev and another in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). This was twenty+ years ago while doing consulting with NGOs operating in all the former Soviet Eurasian states.
Come to think of it, back in the days of the Soviet Union those nations were probably honored to be thought of as Russian. But by the time I visited, not as much.
One memory that sticks with me is the Georgian food. So unusual and so good.
this is turning to be quite an interesting discussion, in general. in regards to “those nations were probably honored to be thought of as Russian”. some were very nationalistic and hated the russians and the russian influence, especially that a lot of russians were moved or moved on their own to all those republics, and so the population became very mixed. the young kids and people like myself totally emerged themselves into everything russian and loved it, like myself. (i am not talking about politics). till today i have very strong sentiments to russian language, literature, theater, music, visual arts, food, etc. and i personally had an almost allergic reaction to the language or culture of the republic that i grew up in, and hated that they forced us to learn some of it (although this particular place was kind of more western european style than most of the others.)
Thanks so much for sharing these, Snow Flower! I happened upon them on a Sunday morning, perfect for an attentive listen. (I have heard the Khachaturyan before but not this Schubert.) Also appreciate your insight into the two themes in the show…it makes sense that the producers would be thoughtful on these details.
@Snow Flower –
The Masquerade Suite was one of my favorite pieces to listen to with my father. Listening to this again has brought tears to my eyes. He was a lover of classical music and opera and had thousands of vinyl records all kept in pristine condition. Every night I would fall asleep to one or the other as he listened to his collection every night. One of his favorite pieces was the Sabre Dance so recordings of Aram Khachaturyan’s music was played quite often.
Having you on this group watch is super awesome as you are such a talented pianist! No pressure Snow Flower, but I really look forward to your comments.
@Snow Flower: Thanks for the meaningful analysis of the opening and closing music pieces, it really does make sense in the context of the show. I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a music expert but I do love selections of all types of music and Schubert is one of my favourite composers. I’ll look out for works by Khachaturyan.
The music adds so much to this show, it’s beautiful to listen to while it functions as a metaphor for the emotions of the characters and the plotlines.
There’s a telling moment at the 20:40 mark in the 2nd episode where president/daughter Young-woo is trying to get Hee-ae’s worthless husband Koon-hyung to admit that Sun-jae is a bribery admission candidate from a wealthy family. When he claims it’s just that he wants to do it right for once, she replies “it isn’t because you’re scared you’ll be pushed out from Dean candidacy thanks to Jo In-seo?” (In-seo being the more talented professor/pianist who already has a worthy protégé).
Koon-hyung replies in frustration, “how would you know how I feel?”
I love that exchange because she actually knows exactly how he feels. Which is why she needs to knock Hee-ae down a few pegs. These two are both weak links who feel threatened by anyone who is more capable.
I feel kind of sorry for the husband. He’s surrounded by people who have talent and/or power, and he has neither. How did he even end up in this field? Did his family pressure him?
Other misc. observations:
I disagree with KFG’s realization that Sun-jae was only entranced by the grand piano from behind the curtain in that early scene. It was both. You could tell that was the director’s intent based on the multiple close-ups focused on Hye-won.
In Ep 2, I loved the nuanced look on Sun-jae’s face when Hye-won’s husband gives him the “good news” that Sun-jae will be his pupil from now on. Sun-jae’s trying not to show his disappointment, but clearly what he’s really thinking is “What? You? Not her?”
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried during several of the moments when Hye-won first heard Sun-jae play. I’m still not as impressed with Yoo Ah-in’s acting as the rest of you seem to be, but Kim Hee-ae is possibly the most impressive actress I’ve seen in any medium. The depth of emotion she conveys in those scenes is simply overwhelming.
I agree that both the piano and Hye-won fascinated Sun-jae. That’s why he recognized Hye-won immediately when he saw her in the hall of her house at the end of ep. 1. For a moment Sun-jae looked like he couldn’t believe his own eyes.
@merij1 That’s very true, Sun Jae was entranced by both.. I should have said that I’d thought at first that he was (only) entranced by Hye Won, but when she walked away and he continued to be entranced, I realized that he was entranced by the piano, at least as much as he was entranced by Hye Won. 😅
Yes, “both” feels right.
Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits guy) wrote a lovely song about a man who appeared to be envious of a hotshot racecar driver being admired and attracting a beautiful girlfriend:
The Car Was The One
In the summer of ’63 I was staying alive
Hanging at the races, hoping to drive
When they were done with the weekend and loading the cars
I couldn’t get a pass so I went to the bar
I’m up in the corner nursing a beer
When who should come a laughing and joking in here
But Bobby Brown, the winner of the sports car race
With some friends and a girl, man, she lit up the place
Bobby was a wild boy, one summer
He knocked down a motel wall with a hammer
He’d do anything, one night for a bet
He raced through the cornfields in a Corvette
I thought it’s got to be a thrill to be like that
With a beautiful girl and be king of the track
But the truth is when all was said and done
It was his Cobra I wanted, the car was the one
It was his Cobra I wanted, the car was the one
@merij1 Ahaha very cute lyrics!! 😂 Thanks for sharing!
@KFG;@merij1: I actually think he was more entranced by the piano, the way he looks at the pianists as he memorizes the music they’re playing is very telling. I don’t see the same reaction to Hye Won though he does notice her but I think more as backdrop to the piano. Feelings start to emerge on both sides when he plays for her, especially when they play together.
It’s hard to know what he was most entranced by, since we only saw his face looking entranced, then shots of what he was seeing.
But if the director is a reliable narrative, I say it was both! Those close-ups of Hye Won would make no sense otherwise.
ya, i also thought that sj attention was not on the piano. in the first shot of this scene piano was hardly seen as it was surrounded by people with only hye won (the only woman in a group of men) kind of the center, with her signature black dress with a flamboyant white shawl which made her look quite dramatic (i think there is nothing more dramatic than pure black and white competing, and all other colors are excluded)- i think that was the only time in this drama when we see her in black and white. and only when all people are gone, does sj see and feel the impact of this PIANO on the stage.
The J.S. Bach piece Sun Jae played for Hye Won is from The Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC), which happens to be one of my all-time favorite collections of solo piano music. Each section consists of a prelude (a less structured piece) followed by a fugue, starting in C major, then C minor then working up in half-steps through every possible key. The idea was to demonstrate that a piano could be tuned in a way that approximated the frequencies for every key. (Fugues are highly structured versions of what the rest of us called “rounds” when we were kids, like “Row Row Row Your Boat” sung by a several people with overlapping parts.)
During the episode Hye Won and Sun Jae weigh in on one of the nerdy debates among those who perform Bach, which is whether it’s acceptable to use the modern piano’s sustain pedal on works that were original written for harpsichord or pianoforte. The two of them side with the purists — of whom, Glenn Gould is perhaps the most famous – who argue that since older keyboard instruments had virtually no means of sustaining notes after they were struck, the only “authentic” way to perform these pieces is to never touch the sustain pedal.
Personally I love Bach piano either way and find it ridiculous that anyone would suggest there is a wrong way to perform his work. Ha. In every medium, there are always fascists who insist that a particular method is the only acceptable one for a “serious” artist.
I sometimes imagine poor J.S. Bach up in heaven, listening to people perform his music exactly the same way for the last 250 years. My god, the man would be bored to tears! And there’s no way he wouldn’t have used the sustain pedal if he’d had access to one.
As it happens, one of my favorite versions of the WTC is that of Sviatoslav Richter, who totally used the sustain pedal to give it a more modern feel. I mention this because later in the show Hye Won gives Sun Jae a copy of Richter’s autobiography to read for inspiration. Ah, the little touches…
@merij1 – Incredible! Thank you for sharing all these details. I know a tiny bit about piano and was wondering about the whole pedal scene, so thank you!
thank you so much, this is most interesting and helpful. it happens to be one of my favorite too, i thought i’d melt. it was almost like watching a concert without paying for the ticket.
Richter is the best!
@snow flower, you’re here!
I guess I should have clarified that Sun Jae didn’t appear to be aware of this debate about using the sustain pedal for Baroque piano. He simply intuited that the music was written to be played without sustain. That being the only option back in the day…
@merij, I had to analyze and compose fugues for one of my college classes. The final exam consisted of composing a piano fugue on a theme given by the professor. We were given 8 hours. it was challenging and fun at the same time.
The debates about the pedal use in Bach’s music continue to this day. I personally use the pedal rather generously, so some purists may have a heart attack!
I don’t play piano myself, but I love the idea of a fugue, especially my presumption that there’s no way of knowing for sure how well one will work out based on the initial lines until you hear them staggered and stacked on top of each other.
@merij1, it takes a great composer to make it work! My fugues were rather pedestrian. I followed all the rules of 18th century composition, but they still sounded rather dull. Bach never broke any rules, yet his music is so inspiring.
I had no idea about the debate about the pedal, thank you for sharing! I had thought it was supposed to convey Sun Jae’s journey to learning piano on his own, that he never really caught on to using the pedal, but still he’s able to play so beautifully because of his raw talent. Appreciated learning that history though
It is being about him being self taught, but in a different way. He had never heard about that debate and yet intuited it just from reading the music.
@merij1 – thank you for all this information as it adds so much to this watch!
wrong box – delete
if writing about “stranger” feels like writing a homework essay for a book club or movie club, the “secret love” feels to me like spilling my guts, really. i watched it all in it’s entirety, gulping it down like cold water in the desert. i watched, and watched again… and again… and again… and every time it felt as fresh and as moving, and as exiting as the very first time. you ah in’s deep psychological dive into the very depth of his character is probably the most interesting part of this drama for me ( but not the only part). the way he moves, the way he talks, the way he laughs or cries, the way he eats or interacts with the outer world and people – it is all a profound expression of his most inner workings of his world. even his name sounds kind of symbolic, you ah in in english sounds like “you are in” and you truly ARE, the actor invites you, no, not invites you, he pushes you into the most subconscious part of his character and you have no choice, you yourself are IN. this man-boy is simple and naïve, but rich and fiercely emotional. this is not an actor who plays this character in the most amazing way, he IS the character – not many actors even the most accomplished ones can reach that degree of transformation. i saw you ah in “burning” and the same kind of acting i observed in that movie, and i made myself a note to follow his work. so i am so over the moon that this is the drama that was chosen this time, thank you fangirl.
the production itself apart from being extra professional, i should mention the lighting – it is in most parts earthy soothing coloring, bathed in soft warm yellow tungsten light, a bit melancholic but o so rich, classy and elegant, just like the black and grey tones oh hye won wears, snugly accentuating her slender beautiful body shape, her high heel chic shoes, her well groomed hair tightly pulled in a ponytail – not a single hair out of place. and that is how her life is, not a single part out of place. her house is although minimal in interior design, very expensive, but full of art work and kind of warm because of their art collection and the special lighting and photography. as a juxtaposition to all of that is the cold, blue lighting in sun jae’s life, with the horrible dirty surroundings, laundry hanging all over the tiny house with shelves full of cartons, and plastic containers, and just poverty…and in the middle of it is sun jae, as hye won says it all: “what a beautiful boy..”
with all that said, from the very start of the drama, it confuses me what role is this fancy lady hye won playing in this “grand scheme of the universe”. she serves her boss like a female butler, yet gets highly paid and is supposed to be management. her boss is extremely rude and abusive to her, but she does not respond. how does she allow herself to be in such a state? i am truly appalled, how does she tolerate this? we hear from young woo (her boss):”…your husband is useless. what truly belongs to you? house, car, house keeper – all ours”. (the rich disgusting people she works for). aha, so that is why she can not give up this fancy lifestyle? still, with her intelligence, she must find another way. but will she? the very first time i watched it, all other characters although some quite interesting and entertaining, their gossiping, their bickering, their internal politicking and dirt – it all felt like pollution and i just wanted to move on to the main characters, their story, the music. THE MUSIC!!! one of the reasons i would watch it again and again, is just that – the music. from the very first notes, it grabs you in a bear hug, and squeezes you to the point that you have no more breath left, it’s exhilarating and painful. and tears are running down my face and hye won’s face – i feel we are in it together. only music has this power, (may be dance which utilizes music and drawing in space with one’s body), but music is the ultimate all penetrating electrical connection to one’s soul. when two souls connect in this most intimate way, that is the beginning of our love story and there is no escape. the very first time, when sj comes to hw house, the very first time their eyes meet even before she talks, just like you need to read between the lines, here you need to read between the eyes.
Eda – what a perfectly lovely comment!
Well, hello group watchers! How lovely to be sharing a new (to me) drama with you all. I watched these episodes yesterday, as baby grandson slept in my arms and sandwiched between two cats… I only say this because, although I was undeniably cosy, I found watching show left me comparably cold 😧
So, I think Kim Hee-ae is that kind of frosty beautiful. I mean, like her gorgeous smooth skin gleams like winter sun on ice. Her character, Hye-won, too is cold composure itself, even after a slap. The only time she looks remotely warm is when she laugh-cries as Yoo Ah-in’s Sun Jae plays piano – and even then, it’s less warm, more tepid. She has way, way too much self-control. I just didn’t feel much connection to her, like when some people play piano and you just don’t feel the music, however competent they are at playing.
And about the playing. Argh, I was hoping someone else may say it so it seems to just be me, but I was dying watching Yoo Ah-in’s facial expressions as he “played” the piano 😳 It was so cringe to me, I think because (however hard director tried to make it look like him playing, well it isn’t him playing) that I got pulled out of the moment and could only see him acting playing, and acting feeling. I saw Do You Like Brahm’s? and I have to say, for me, Kim Min-jae acted it so much more believably.
And then – argh!! – them “playing” together… Oh, I want to feel the sentiment and not squirm like a teenager, but I was virtually hiding behind my hands! Umm, yes, I get that was orgasmic for them – oh, I love romance and passion and all of that, but I did not like this version of it. A kind of promise, I suppose, of what we can expect from the show. I hope the actual physical stuff is better.
Oh, this is just me, isn’t it? You’re all loving it, aren’t you? I’m fairly sure Yoo Ah-in is highly regarded and praised… I will keep watching and hope I can find a way to get into it 🤞
@Ele I’m just jumping in here, to say that Yoo Ah In did all his own piano playing in the show. He learned specifically for the role.
Really? 🤯 I bet he didn’t actually pull all those expressions when he really did play 🙄 I still maintain I was dying…
It’s interesting how you feel so differently about the scene than I did, but I guess that’s what makes us all unique. 😉
All I can say is, different people emote differently while playing or singing music.. so sometimes, they might have an unflattering expression on their face, in the midst of concentrating inwards.. I actually rather like that Sun Jae doesn’t seem to have a care about what his facial expression might look like, as long as the music comes out the way he intends..
Even as I was watching, I thought, ‘oh, this is going to be one of those “me” problems’… I actually really love musicians being totally involved in their music. To be honest, I prefer eccentric performances. However, I think with that particular moment in the show, I didn’t buy it and it made me all kinds of uncomfortable. Show so far is a little ‘glassy’ if that makes any sense? Not earthy enough for me. Maybe if more of it’s set in Sun-jae’s place, I might feel differently. And, as I say, all of this is no doubt just me and my tastes. Really, I completely annoy myself 😶
Your comment on preferring “eccentric performances” makes me wonder if you are a Glenn Gould fan…
Don’t judge me, @j3ffc, but I had to look him up! Genius! Yes, I love anyone who’s entirely committed to their art form. No half-hearts, please! So I really *should* like Yoo Ah-in – given he learned the piano for the part, he sounds like my kind of determined full-heart. Maybe I’m just too tired. Hoping I will get it into the show in the next lot of episodes 😁
This is a judgement-free zone, @Ele Nash! 😅
Yes grunting is quite a bit worse than facial expressions!
Ah j3ffc – of course I also had to look him up and it was worth the time to do so.
Κ, is this certain? I remember it seemed to me when back when I watched the first 5-6 episodes that I had particularly noticed that Yoo Ah In had short chubby fingers that got miraculously slim and long when playing. I think I remember myself thinking that they should have used a stand-in pianist with fingers that looked more like the lead’s fingers.
I have to say I’ve always heard this claim and never believed it. That he learned the parts and they used some of them, sure. But that all or even most of those recording were him? It’s just not plausible.
@merij1 @Natalia I don’t think Yoo Ah In played everything, but he definitely learned to play so that he wouldn’t need a body double, according to this interview.
Yoo Ah In did play in the show, but we didn’t hear him playing. They used recordings of professional musicians. It was 100% synchronization.
Here is a link to an interview with the director:
@MariaF Thanks! That definitely helps to add clarity! I’m still impressed though, that YAI was able to do well enough, to enable that successful synchronization! 😊
Fangurl – YAI is supremely talented. I am super impressed as well.
i am a stickler for details (can’t help it). so i also noticed right away that the shape of sj’s hands is different than the hands that play the piano. but then i read that sj himself learned to play in preparation for this drama, and i thought that may be i am mistaken, so i let it go. but now that you mention it, i went back to just look at those hands, and it does seem that these are different hands. but… why should we get hung up on it? isn’t it in many productions that other people are utilized when something very dangerous, or very specific required and the actor can not perform it himself, substitutes or whatever they are called step in. that is very common practice, so why is it not acceptable when a highly qualified pianist is actually performing here? should we actually admire that you ah in invested in learning to play the piano and understand how this music feels going through his own body?
Hi Ele & Eda –
Here is a detailed article from the Director how they pulled off the Piano Playing sequences with the Actors. I found this article during my first watch and was very helpful to me. Someone else here also referenced this article.
However, If this is your first watch, there are some minor spoilers about the music used in later episodes. Just a heads up in case you do not like Spoilers –
Director’s Cut: Ahn Pan Seok Speaks on SLA – Part 1https://pianoconversations.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/directors-cut-ahn-pan-seok-speaks-on-sla-part-1-final/
fascinating, fascinating!!! i always like to know how the “sausage” is made, not just to eat it. it adds a whole other dimension to the whole experience. many thanks to you.
yai’s absolute honesty in his work is what attracted him to me most.
@eda harris – you are welcome 🙂 I do love sometimes to know the behind the scenes mechanics of a Show. This one in particular 🙂
I’m so happy we picked this show for the group watch. This will give me incentive to go back to it after dropping it mid-way – it was so taxing to watch alone!
@Natalia Well you certainly won’t be alone this time around!! I hope this group watch works out well for you and this show! 😊
@Natalia – I feel the same way!!! I finally have been able to form words around this one during the Group Watch 🙂 It was so intense on the first watch.
I was totally sucked in to this drama within 5 minutes (very unusual!), to the point that I just wanted to keep watching well beyond two episodes. I have bravely held out bingeing but not sure if I can last! I love the music; I get the sense that the writer and director loved music too and really *get* musicians and music lovers (same feeling I had with Do You Like Brahms). Both leads were amazing esp the ML. I loved the colours and the contrast between the two worlds of our leads. So excited that this group watch pushed me into trying this drama, thank you @kfangurl and fellow voters.
@learjet1 So glad that you’re loving this one already, and so pleased to know that it was the group watch that got you to give this one a look! ❤️ The music really is wonderfully immersive.. and so atmospheric! 🤩 I love the Four Hands track so much that I had to share it in this post.
I’ve downloaded it on Spotify, thanks to your suggestion 🙂
KFG – I am so glad you suggested this Show to me many months ago and I binged it in a weekend because I just had to keep going to the next episode. Nobody knows what thats like, right? 😉 The music enveloped me and never let go. As Trent said on the Drama Exchange on Patreon (shameless plug ) the Show “draws you in”.
One thing I remember quite clearly and happened again is that this “sick feeling” after Sun Jae comes in to play for Hye Won and she validates his playing which maybe he did not need. In that moment, as you said, they transcended to another place in that room together. Everything disappeared and only they and the music existed. And, then, we the viewers are dumped out of that moment into the reality these “professionals” start to wring their hands in how to use this pure soul to their advantage and everyone has a different angle of what they need from Sun Jae. While we see him elated and flying on Cloud Nine in what he has experience, none the wiser even though he comes from a harsher seeming World. Made me wince then and still does even with the second watch. None seem to interested in being a true teacher and guide to this pure talent who trained himself.
As far as Hye Won, I think she has no idea what happened to her in that room because she is far removed from herself because of her life. As everyone has pointed out, that scene where they played together was sensual, sexual, erotic, passionate and more. Sun Jae knows it and Hye Won’s body knows it – she cries, she laughs, she smiles, she stays, she has him play several songs, she moves passionately at the piano, she’s sweating, she is so disconnected from herself she does not realize what just happened to her. Excellent performances by both of them. Excellent.
I love how in the Group Watch you decided to focus on different things than your review. I love how you pointed out the different Worlds of Sun Jae and Hye Won are stylized and presented to us. Because in my rewatch, I really noticed the street sounds in Sun Jae’s world and the absence of music. However, not until you placed it up against Hye Won’s world did it make sense to me what the Show wanted to do 🙂
@JJ Yes, the music really does envelop you, doesn’t it?? I hadn’t heard the OST tracks in a while, but the moment Four Hands started playing, it sucked me in, all over again. 🥰
That’s an interesting perspective that Hye Won doesn’t realize what had happened to her in the piano room; I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’d assumed that she knew, but now that you mention it, it’s possible that she didn’t.
@KFG – Yes! Hard to pull myself away, honestly. Its an amazing experience when music just pulls you in and carries you away, no?
She just calmly gets up after that entire experience and walks out and says good bye. While she muses over it later, I think she is still pretty disconnected from herself. And I meant to say her Body and her Soul completely knows whats going on not just her body 🙂
@jj – great comment! I also am worried about Sun Jae being manipulated. That is a motley crew of ‘professionals’. Young Woo and Madam Han are quite scary and most definitely not trustworthy.
Hey ho, let’s go!
I agree with manukajoe that the first episode didn’t grab me so much, probably because I found myself confused with the various conflicts and semipolitical machinations (more to say about that later), and even more confused about the relationships between our main characters until well into episode 2 (I don’t know how you mystery aficionados do it). But then we got to that “audition”……
O. M. G.
That was a wonderfully understated but killer scene (and all the better for being so extended). Hardly anything was said or shown, but so much implied.
The music was practically a character in itself, both raising the stakes and commenting on the events. So here’s a thought…
This is a show that deserves a shared accompaniment. So maybe each week someone, preferably more conversant with classical music than I (Snow Flower?) might suggest a piece to listen to, so as to complement what we’ve seen on screen. For example, this performance of a movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata by Lang Lang brings the heat quite nicely:
Just a thought.
@j3ffc I so agree that the music is a character unto itself; it’s such a presence, and it almost feels like it has its own lines and its own space in the spotlight! 🤩
I am no classical music aficionado, but I’d be happy to have accompaniment suggestions each week, if anyone feels ready to provide them. 😉
@j3ffc – I wonder if I am the only one who read your first sentence and began to sing the Blitzkrieg Bop in my head. 🤣😂😆😅 Loved it!
This is my first time watching this show, but I am soo enjoying it so far. I love to listen to classical music, however I don’t have such an emotional response to it as Hye Won did when she listened to Seon Jae play for hours. I really did love watching that scene though. I think I am going to really enjoy watching how everything plays out in this show. I’m hoping that CEO Yeong Woo gets some comeuppance as I don’t really like her character very much right now. I do like Chairman Han though(I have seen her in other shows and really enjoyed watching her) she is a tough cookie, not someone to be trifled with.
I love how Seon Jae picks up Hye Won up after freeing her foot from the mouse trap. So gentlemanly. I’m sure I will find many more things I like about this show as I watch more. So glad I am along for the ride.
Aside from the Bach piece, a lot of the music in this show is from the Romantic era. Not an era I particularly enjoy, tbh, but one that definitely aimed for an emotional response.
We just saw the Chairman Han actress — Shim Hye-jin — portray the ML’s mother in Kill Me Heal Me. Such different characterizations, both vile, but strong here while shallow to the point of being broken in KM/HM!
@merij1 – Ah, thank you for letting us know a good portion of the music is from the Romantic Era. Very helpful!!!
Have you seen this link that lists out all the music? Or since you know most of the music is from the Romantic Era you wouldnt need this link 🙂 I had hoped the OST would have had more of the classical pieces.
@JJ I remember when SLA first aired, there was a classical soundtrack for it, before the original soundtrack came out. I can’t find that on Youtube, but I did find this complete playlist of the classical pieces on SLA! Here you go:
@KFG – OMO! OMO! OMO!!!! Thank you so very much ❤️❤️❤️
@Kim So glad that you’re joining us – and already loving the show! It definitely helps, that you enjoy classical music.. we’re going to be getting a good amount of that, I’m pretty sure! 😉
As usual, you do such a good job of cutting to the heart of things that I am going to be searching for interesting ways of basically saying “yeah, what KFG said!”. But anyway…
First things first: this is my first ever exposure to the top flight, highly decorated actress Kim Hee-ae, and…whew, she does not disappoint. She’s so on her game here in these first two episodes, effortlessly drawing the eye. I know that this wouldn’t work without a partner equal or near-equal in skill to mirror what she’s giving to the show, and Yoo Ah-in is likewise justly celebrated as an actor and I know will have his strong partisans in this group watch, as he should. But I have seen him previously, and although I respect what he’s showing is here, in these first two episodes, for me, Kim Hee-ae is just absolutely central.
One thing that struck me as mildly surprising but that I loved was that it turns out that Hye-won is not only polished, competent, in command, and deeply conversant with the complex, multi-layered world that she moves through, but also an actual musician of some skill. I realize that in the very rarefied world of music conservatories and concert pianists, there is skill, and then there is a whole ‘nother level of skill, and she was probably never at that top level like Sun-jae is or has potential to be.
But she understands the music, she communes with it, and I think it very telling indeed that her husband–the actual music professor–asks her to evaluate the audition tapes to find him a diamond-in-the-rough student so he can get back in the game of competition with the other professor (so interesting that great students are currency to these guys, they represent power and influence), telling her that she has a better ear than he does and is better at evaluating these things. That says a lot. And also, that she can then sit down and hold her own playing a four-hands duet at that level with Sun-jae. Look, like a lot of kids, I took piano lessons for a number of years, and although I loved being able to memorize and play a relatively complex piece, I never had the native aptitude or dedication to long practice hours to rise above better than adequate. Even if Hye-won isn’t at the very very top levels, she’s still really really good.
And I purely love that scene–I believe you allude to it in your notes–where she’s sitting listening to him play, and we see a tear rolling down her face, and then she turns her head a bit and just starts to quietly laugh. What a range encompassed in that simple scene, moved to tears and laughter all at once.
One more thing about the music and our two main characters. In discussion and critique of this show, I have no doubt it’s been touched upon or observed a thousand times–indeed, you likewise mention it in the notes–but there is something so intimate, sensual, even, on a barely metaphorical level, sexual (without the explicit prurience, of course) about the shared piano performance of the two characters. It is evident and moving, and you’re right to delicately allude to her “basking in the afterglow;” as is he in his own way (going through the fingering all over again on the bridge).
Last thought. I think Show does a very fine job of efficiently constructing the world that our players will be moving through, particularly the somewhat unique intersection of wealth with high-level performing arts. It clearly has its own rules and rhythms, and whether you find that interesting or just boring or even worthy of contempt is going to be a personal reaction, but personally I do find it fairly fascinating. The three women that have so far been central to the narrative have been gripping; the chairwoman and her step-daughter the president, consumed with their power games, while Hye-won navigates the shifting currents between them.
Alright. I’m more than ready to see what comes next.
@Trent Yay that you’re enjoying this one already!!! Yes, Kim Hee Ae really has such an onscreen presence, doesn’t she? It’s captivating, without feeling aggressive. 🤩
That’s such a great observation, that she was able to just.. sit down and be able to play that duet with Sun Jae so competently – without prior practice! It makes me think that if she hadn’t had to stop playing “professionally” (quotation marks because I’m not sure if she actually did go professional before she’d had to stop because of her untreated condition that I can’t remember offhand), that she would have been a talent to watch, herself.
I also love your observation, that Joon Hyung defers to Hye Won to evaluate talent, whether it’s vetting the audition tapes, or listening to Sun Jae play. Very telling little detail, that demonstrates just how good Hye Won is.
Also, YES, Hye Won does absolutely bask – not only in the afterglow, but in the now, as Sun Jae plays. The way she sinks into the music, and gives in to it, allowing it to enter her soul, bringing with it varying, overwhelming waves of emotion, is so sublime. As BE puts it, Sun Jae is pouring out his love in his music, and here Hye Won is, instinctively basking in it. It’s beautiful, and so transcendent. ❤️
Thanks for the new group watch KFG!
Ep 1 Slow slow slow.
Ep 2 This has a similar feel to Stranger, slow, measured, understated, a little cold.
I do like the women in this, as I like the women in Stranger so far. And I liked the women in NIF the most too.
To be honest the world of money and music feels very cold and self-indulgent and uninteresting to me, an ivory tower bubble that is disconnected from reality. I am not super fond of classical music. This kind of classical music story usually doesn’t grad me.
@manukajoe Ooh, I hope this one will grow on you.. I personally think it’s wonderful! Of course, not everyone would love it (and if you don’t, of course you should feel free to drop it), but I’m hopeful that perhaps a bit of lens adjustments, after reading what everyone else has to say, might help you to enjoy this one after all. 😅
Manukajoe hi, this is a show that looks slow but to me it was more stressful than the most intense thriller (and I actually stopped watching because of that the first time around).
Stick around, let’s find out if it’s that stressful after all.
I love the way you write. So I’m curious: do you finish these the night before and then re-read them in the morning for final edits before posting?
@merij1 You are pretty much spot on! I do tend to do these the day before (or the day before that, if I am slightly ahead of the curve), but I usually don’t manage any final edits before posting. More often than not, it’s only after the post has gone up, that I find a typo or five, and end up editing them after 20 other people have already seen them 😝😅😂
Fangurl – your work organization skills are inspiring. You have to be very focused and disciplined to get so much done. Just wow.