Living up to its box office success and strong cast ensembles, Gwanghae/Masquerade presented an astonishing story filled with amusing characters, and perfectly inserted humor that has balanced the serious tone of a sageuk movie.
Masquerade tells the story of an ordinary clown who sat on the King’s throne when he fell unconscious due to political attacks to poison him. The clown in a freak coincidence looked exactly like the King and conspired with the King’s right hand man to pose as the nation’s leader to avoid a serious political conflict if the current King’s condition will be revealed.
In his short stint assuming the King’s identity, the poser was quick to uptake in dealing with the anomalies and unreasonable battles he has to go through as the father of the nation, and in doing so his rational thinking and good heart has affected the people around him who were unaware that they were not serving the real King.
What made this movie appealing to me was the exemplary portrayals of the cast and the funny Joseon monarchy customs. Yes, I really giggled at the idea of having the King’s servants watched him poop. Lee Byung Hun oppa won me over in both his comic and serious personas, although the comedic side was more lingering to me.
The film nailed the poignant scenes seamlessly. Although not understanding at first the risk of acquiescing to be a King impostor, when he grasped the urgency and importance of the position he was baby-sitting, his simple-mindedness and his leaning to what’s best for his people decided most of pending concerns the unconscious King can’t even resolve.
If you want to see a Korean period film in binding mixture of quaint characters and staid story-line with delightful inflections, Gwanghae will be a perfect pick for you. This character-driven story albeit the sleek Joseon setting was narrated in an easy to understand fashion that first time watchers will not be lost following its conclusion.