In South Korea the wedding chest, a massive wooden box filled with things both mysterious and symbolic, is part of the opening ritual of every marriage ceremony. In Ulrike Ottinger's film, it also serves as the starting point for the journey the director takes into present-day Seoul, where she combs the megacity for what, in the end, are invisible traditions. In the process she discovers the old in the new – and vice versa – in Korea's omnipresent wedding industry.
The Korean Wedding Chest paints a very entertaining portrait of a society that in family matters has preserved surprisingly conservative traditions. One marvels at the beauty of the clothes, the plethora of wondrous rituals, and the staging of perfect moments that are photographed like sculptures. A whole world opens up when the wedding chest, like a "Pandora's Box", is opened, but the destinies taking their course are entirely contemporary ones: in the air-conditioned side rooms of the banquet hall, makeup artists paint the faces of the bride and groom. And they become characters, along with the parents of the bride, numerous assistants, and a state-licensed shaman, in a modern ethnographic fairytale.
Production: Ulrike Ottinger Filmproduktion, Berlin; in cooperation with the International Women’s Film Festival Seoul (IWFFIS)
Screenplay: Ulrike Ottinger
Camera: Ulrike Ottinger, Lee Sunyoung
Format: 35mm, Color
Running Time: 82 min.
Language: Korean, German
Photo: © Ulrike Ottinger