A woman comes to Seung-min and asks him to design her new residence. Seung-min soon realizes the woman is Seo-yeon, the person he once secretly fell in love with during his college years. While inside her home, Seung-min inadvertently finds a miniature house, which he had made for Seo-yeon 15 years before. Seung-min then realizes Seo-yeon had secretly fallen in love with him, because the miniature house he had made for her, he had never presented. Instead, she found it herself and kept it for 15 years.
This scene is from the famous movie, An Introduction to Architecture. In this movie, the word “trace” plays a key role, connecting the past with the present just as the miniature house does. This motif also forms the main structure of the musical, The Days. When memories become so faint that they are almost forgotten, traces of the past suddenly come up. The story of hopeless love in The Days is highlighted by such traces of the past, because they remain unchanged, keeping unforgettable memories hidden away but still intact.
Traces of Unforgettable Memories
The Days has two main storylines that are parallel to each other, crossing the past of 20 years with the present. The musical starts with the scene of Jung-hak in the present time, who is the chief officer of Presidential Security, hearing breaking news. The President’s daughter, Ha-na, has disappeared. While searching for her, Jung-hak finds traces of the past that remind him of the memories of an incident that happened exactly 20 years previously.
Then, the time setting changes and the other story of 20 years ago begins. Jung-hak and his friend, Moo-young, join the Presidential Security. One day, an important mission is given to them: protect an unidentified woman from external threats. While acting as a bodyguard, Moo-young falls in love with the woman he is ordered to protect, and the woman in turn reciprocates. As the story continues, Moo-young discovers a dangerous conspiracy being undertaken against her and evacuates her from the Blue House, even though his actions are against his orders. After he helps her to safely escape, he promises her that they will meet again. Then, Moo-young leaves a letter to his friend Jung-hak before disappearing.
The story returns to the present. Jung-hak successfully finds Ha-na, and at the same time, he discovers the last trace of Moo-young that had been left for him 20 years earlier: the letter. The play ends with Jung-hak reading the letter and him recalling memories of the tragic ending of Moo-young’s love story.
Hopeless Love Highlighted by Music
One of the remarkable features of The Days is that the entire soundtrack of the musical is from Kim Kwang-seok, a famous folk rock singer of the 1990s. Kim’s original songs were arranged to fit the musical, with only a few dramatic changes. Some of the songs were changed into various tempos to better correspond with the scenes. Moreover, a large-scaled choir adds a sense of majesty to the original pieces which were relatively simple.
Although Kim’s music has gone through several changes, the emotions of the original music are still enough to affect the audience. Ryu Sun-hee, who has been a Kim fan for 26 years said, “Drastic arrangements of the songs made it difficult for me to recognize the original music. But even though there were lots of changes in the songs, I could still feel the emotions that Kim’s songs uniquely evoke, especially in the climax.”
Still, it is not enough to say that The Days adopted Kim’s songs only to pay homage to the old singer; Kim’s songs actually elicit emotions that perfectly match the atmosphere of the musical. Loneliness, sorrow, and pain from desperate love are well woven into the songs. One of his songs Saranghetjiman(Though I loved You) for instance, contains is the following lyrics: Even though I loved you, all I can do is just see you standing far away. I cannot come near you. I want to stay with you but ought to leave. Such painful lyrics effectively deliver the sorrow of the hopeless love story to the audiences listening to the music, while watching the sorrowful scenes in the musical.
The Story Behind the Threaded Curtain Effect
In The Days, there are several distinct features that can be found compared with other musicals. Video images where layers of threaded curtains continuously flow over the stage are emphasized during the play. This effect makes the audiences feel like they are watching a movie, creating a mysterious atmosphere at the same time. The Director of The Days, Jang Yoo-jeong, commented, “I tried to use the wall instead of threaded curtains at first because they are usually used in small stages. However, our stage designer suggested the placement of the threaded curtains. The result was satisfying because the threaded curtain effectively creates the visual effect of falling rain, which deepens the sorrowful feelings of the hopeless love story.”
Despite the fresh attempts in the settings, some improvements are still necessary to provide more convenience for the audience. For instance, whenever young Jung-hak of the past turns backs to his middle-aged present self, the actor puts on his glasses while the sets remain unchanged. “I felt it difficult to follow the crossing of the timeline between the past and present because I expected the sets to change. Also, I could not see whether or not the actor put his glasses on since my seat was in the farthest row from the stage,” Woo Yun-ji, a Sophomore in the Department of Architecture at Hanyang University pointed out.
A Musical Recalling the Old Memories of Love
A short phrase from the song, Le Temps de Cerises, appears in the background of the stage: “I always love the season when a cherry ripens, with the memories inside my mind.” It is beautiful when a cherry ripens. However, the cherry fruit is fated to fall to the ground. Hopeless love resembles the painful fate of a cherry, but on the other hand, it is never to be erased from a person’s memory. The musical The Days recalls the old memory of love with the masterpieces of the old, but unforgotten singer, Kim Kwang-seok.
Kim Kwang-seok (1964-1996)
Kim was a Korean folk rock singer. He first learned to play the guitar from his middle school senior. He made his debut in 1984 and later joined the band, Dongmulwon – The Zoo. He made his solo debut in 1989, and earned wide popularity as an acoustic guitar singer. He was found to have committed suicide at home by hanging at the age of 33. Some of his acquaintances however, still cast doubts about his mysterious suicide.