It is one of my hobbies to visit some of the shooting locations of movies. So far, I've gotten lost in the alleys of Paris and the roamed the streets of Vienna at night. After imagining the scenes of the movies and seeing the locations in person they all seem the same at first but with the second glance, you notice all the differences.
After traveling so far to be with the characters that can jump out from any corner of the alleys, I was surprised to find the place completely empty. After the crowd, camera and the light gone, all that remained seemed somewhat different. The shooting locations I stumbled upon in between alleys seemed to have changed.
Regardless of these small disappointments, going on adventures to find the locations that I have only imagined was rather wonderful. I will only get to know how I would feel about the place when I physically get there.
It is much like finding to face your first love. What they say about seeing the first love, that you'll be full of disappointments when you meet them again, may as well sum up my hobby. The dichotomy of two ideas, loving the movie so much so that I want to visit, but don't want to actually see it and be disappointed, have tormented me.
This is about Lee, Yongjoo's most successful film, Architecture 101 and Cafe de Seoyeon.
There is a coffee shop in Jeju called, Cafe de Seoyeon. This is the house that Seoyeon from Architecture 101 asks her college sweetheart, Seungmin to build he promised. The production company of the film, Myung Fims initially wanted turn this place as a studio for their writers, but decided to turn it into a gallery and cafe. And as it became open to public, those who remember the movie have come to experience the space.
From watching this film, I thought the process of construction of a building is much like the process of developing love. Imagining the future, drawing the blueprints, finding the right materials to make the complete home. All the love that I saw or experienced was much like the construction of a house.
And if love can be compared to the construction, maybe the love or the relationship between Seoyeon and Seungmin was the relationship of callow 20-something-year-old, as rudimentary of a introductory class like the title of the film. This perfect title, Architecture 101, may have reflected the intention of the director, who was an aspiring architecture student once, to show the similarity between the two.
(Spoiler alert) But the Seoyeon and Seungmin do not get back together in the film. The two still hold old grudges to each other, hurt each other's feeling and slowly drift away from one another. And that is how most unfulfilled love is.
Every love is based on a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding that you love him, a misunderstood that he is this different, a misunderstanding that is kind of a woman she is, a misunderstanding that I am everything to him, a misunderstanding he understands everything, a misunderstanding that there is not a soul on this universe more beautiful than she, a misunderstanding that he will never change, a misunderstanding that he'd need me, a misunderstanding that he'd be lonely, a misunderstanding that my love to her would be eternal.
Not knowing these, a 20-year-old version of I had thought those who made their relationships work were successful as they just interpreted one another in good ways with no misunderstanding.
Pavane pour une infante défunte by Park, Mingyu
Misunderstandings pulled them apart, and handling of the matter seemed too inexperienced. But these callow protagonists remind us of our pasts. And maybe that's why people refer Architecture 101 as the movie that makes homage to the experience of our first love.
Every love regardless of its time has always been like that. Every love with that person is a first experience so it must be with the inexperienced and callow version of us. But what makes us different now from the 20-year-old self is how we resolve these misunderstandings and finally come to fully understand each other. Understanding and accepting the way they are. It is this simple principle that pulled us apart.
So this love is not a movie that makes homage to our first love, but our all the immature relationship we have been through.
What is very interesting about this story is that it isn't exclusively about the two characters but it shows all the others who are as callow as the protagonists. We see Nabdeuk, a hidden hero of the story and Seungmin's mother who are as inexperienced and we find that relatable.
I can never understand who gets to decide what is a great film. But if a person can relate to the narrative, then it is a great film, at least for that person.
The critics may refer Architecture 101 to as a romance that falls flat but many remember this movie not for its cinematographic finish or the depth of the story. Many will remember this movie for its reliability and how they will see themselves in the characters.
The most memorable scene from the movie, aside from Nabdeuk's lecture on French kissing, is the grownup Seoyeon and grownup Seungmin's drinking scene.
"Maeuntang, Spicy Stew. What a strange name, don't you think? If there are roes in stews, they're called Roe Stew. If there are Galbi in stews, they're called Galbi Stew. But this is called Maeuntang. It's a stew and it's spicy. That's it. Whatever it has, it'll always be called Maeuntang. I just don't like it. My life looks like a bad version of this Maeuntang. I have no idea what's in it. It's just spicy."
Saying those words intoxicated, Seoyeon swears and screams in agony as Seoyeon spoke of Seungmin and us who are now changed and older. The reason meeting of first love easily disappoints us is not the changes of the person you loved but it is the changes within we see. Are the fond memories of our past just a distorted fantasy we created in disbelief of the changes we could not dare to face?
Cafe de Seoyeon has become quite a tourist trap now but I cannot help but wonder what this place would look like had it been turned into a regular home. Wimi-ri in Seogwipo wa not a popular area. And if Seoyeon really lived here, Seoyeon and her father would have looked out to the ocean that looks like the end of the world.
I always thought if there is an ocean at the end of the world, it would be a rough ocean with no sand beach. And that's what this place reminds me of. This Wimi-ri ocean facing the Cafe de Seoyeon shows a lot of distinct characteristics of Jeju as a volcanic island. There are rugged basanites with holes stretched out and the sea moss or some kind of vegetation has grown wild. And the gentle waves come and go between the rocks.
It was the perfect place for Seoyeon who would have come to Jeju with a broken heart. Maybe she wanted to be away from the people and Seoul and to the end of the world she thought existed. Now this place may be the opposite. If the ocean facing looks exactly like the end Seoyeon yearned to visit.
At places like this, there are awful billboards and pictures from the movie post everywhere (Like the shooting locations of All In and Dae Jang Geum) and expensive food they sell are too expensive making the experience very unpleasant. But Cafe de Seoyeon seemed well maintained.
The props showcased were in good shape and even with the number of visitors, the interior were generally impeccable. And this may be because I wasn't expecting much but the flavor of the coffee wasn't bad, neither expensive. It's probably because it far away from everything too.
When I got my drinks on the first floor and walked upstairs to see the ocean, the sun was starting to set. I walked around the place to take pictures. The second floor was almost exactly like in the movie. I wanted to go lie on the lawn but entering was prohibited. I made peace with myself just by walking along it.
The tagline of Architecture 101 on the poster was
We were all someone’s first love.
This is the theme of the movie that connects it all which also puts us right back into the person we were once. The butterfly that was in our stomach that stopped us from saying things like, "I really liked you." Maybe there are better and more beautiful thing left undone, though it may be filled with regrets.