워낭소리 Old Partner
International Documentary Feature Films
South Korea, 2008, 75 mins., color
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.
— Anatole France In a remote, verdant valley in South Korea,
old Mr. and Mrs. Lee live on a farm with their rickety ox.
For forty years, the animal has served them faithfully
—hauling untold firewood loads and dragging the plow through fertile fields.
A gently unfolding meditation on the cycle of life,
Old Partner playfully and poetically tells the story of the ineffable bond
between Mr. Lee and his ox as their lives wind down in tandem.
Rain or shine, hunched and gnarled, Mr. Lee tills, weeds, and harvests,
often crouching on all fours like the ox that never leaves his side.
The camera lingering intimately on the ox’s kind eyes and creaky bones
allows us to sense the depth of this sentient being’s loyalty
as he carts Mr. Lee to town at a snail’s pace.
In return, Mr. Lee collects special fodder by hand
and refuses to spray insecticides for fear of poisoning his beloved beast.
Meanwhile, the cheeky Greek chorus,
Mrs. Lee, complains incessantly from the peanut gallery.
This traditional life and this ox will be her undoing!
A charming, heartbreaking, existential buddy tale,
Old Partner conveys the almost mystical inextricability of humans and nature.
As laconic Mr. Lee intones, “The ox is my karma.”
Director(s): Chung-ryoul Lee
Screenwriter(s): Chung-ryoul Lee
Producer: Young-jae Goh
Cinematographer: Jae-woo Ji
Editor: Chung-ryoul Lee
Composers: Hoon Heo, So-yun Min
Lighting: Jin-young Yang