Ssang-hwa-jeom (A Frozen Flower) (2008)

 

 

 

Director:     Ha Yu. 

Starring:     Jin-mo Ju (King),  Ji-hyo Song (Queen),  In-seong Jo (Hong-lim),  In-beom Ko (Yeon Ki-mok),  Tae-won Kwon (Jo Il-moon),  Ju-hwan Lim (Han-baek),  Ji-hyeon Min (Concubine),  Ji-ho Shim (Seung-gi),  Wook-hwan Yeo (Im-bo).

homosexual relationship between king and his bodyguard Chief is complicated by the necessity to get the Queen pregnant (a task the King gives to the Chief) 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"Under Yuan’s subjugation, the Goryeo King selected young boys and closely trained them to be his royal guards called the Kunryongwe. He allowed these boys to reside in the palace and always kept them within his reach."

The Princess of Yuan arrives. She will be the new queen. The King keeps her and the court waiting while he finishes playing his musical instrument with the young boy Hong Lim.

A young man and a woman on one horse try to get away from a body guard, but are stopped. The chief of the guards, Chief Hong, says that Han-Baek has gone mad over a girl. The young fellows begs the chief to let them go, but he says he must go through him if he is going any farther.

The King says he has no appetite. The Chief asks the King to reconsider, but he will not. So the Chief says he should be beheaded along with Han-Baek. The King finally relents and spares the life of Han-Baek..

The sub-chief says that the law clearly states that if a guard fools with a court maid the punishment is beheading. He whispers to the Chief: "Stop clouding the King’s judgment with pillow talk, sir." The chief kicks him in the chest, knocking him down. He then pulls his sword and puts it to the underling’s throat saying never speak ill of the King again or it is he who will be beheaded.

The Queen comes in to ask the King if he slept well?  She also asks how much more will the Yuan Dynasty demand over the royal heir issue? She then with respect suggests that the king make more of an effort in this regard, but the King only asks her if he should take another royal concubine? She looks very shocked at the question.

The Queen thanks the Chief for saving her maid from a death sentence. She also warns him that his constant attentions to the King may be misinterpreted in this time of concern about a royal heir.

Enjoying the spring sun in an open building away from the palace, the King asks the Queen to sing for him and she obliges him after a bit of blushing. All of a sudden a servant is hit in the head with an arrow and he falls onto the royal table. This is followed by more arrows shot by a number of assassins.

The bodyguard is taking many casualties as the arrows hit them before they get even a chance to fight back. Assassins then attack from the rear. The arrow attack stops and the sword fighting begins. The Chief kills many of the assassins and even the King has to fight to prevent himself from being killed. One assassin throws a knife at the king, but the Chief leaps in front of the King taking the knife himself. The King kills the knife thrower and then helps Hong Lim up. A number of assassins attack the two men. They fight bravely but the King is stabbed by a sword. The Chief cuts off the arm of the assassin.

The royals are furious with the Chief of the Kunryongwe asking him how could he let this happen? His Majesty calls for the Chief. The Chief says that he should be sentenced to death for his failure. The King tells him no, because if he hadn’t been there to save him, he would already be dead.

The assassins were the leftovers who escaped from the raid against the Japanese earlier. And the ministers now are waiting on Lord Cho. The bodyguards suspect he may be the one behind this affair but they can’t touch him without solid proof because Cho is under Yuan’s protection. So for now they will go along with the blame being placed on the Japanese, while they gather more evidence.

The Yuan delegation arrives and the court has to bow to them. The head man says that a century has now passed in alliance with Goryeo through matrimony. But now the Goryeo King is without an heir, so Lord Kyungwon will be made the Crown Prince. In addition, Goryeo is to send soldiers and maidens to Yuan.

The Goryeo king alone with his court talks about the matter. One of the ministers says that Yuan will make even more demands on Goryeo using the heir issue excuse. So it is best that Lord Kyungwon be quickly established as Crown Prince. The Queen asks if the ministers are the subjects of the Goryeo King or Lord Kyungwon? She accuses them of really wanting to have the present king step down from the throne.

Alone with the Queen, the King tells her to go back to Yuan for, as she well knows, he is incapable to taking a woman. He says that if Lord Kyungwon becomes the Crown Prince, then he will be a king in name only. The Queen says she will not go back to Yuan for now she is a citizen of Goryeo and belongs in the palace.

The King has sex with the Chief with a lot of wild kissing and hugging. The King now asks the Chief to impregnate the Queen. The Chief says he cannot do it!

But the Chief is recruited for the job anyway. Tears flow as the Queen submits to the plan. This makes the Chief feel very uneasy and he is unable to have sex with her. By his demeanor with the King, the King knows he could not have sex with the Queen. The King tells the Chief that there are only two chances left. So he must pull himself together and complete the task.

The Chief tries again. This time the Queen participates more, taking off her blouse and other clothing. The chief comes to climax. The Chief has sex with the Queen again the next night. This time she participates even more enthusiastically in the act. The King can hear the difference in the enthusiasm level. He looks through the door to watch and looks a bit sad.

The Chief now asks the King if he can visit Byuklan-do for a few days because he feels he has been neglecting his duties as chief. And he personally wants to investigate the attempted assassination. The King agrees to let him go.

The Chief brings two of the body guards with him. They talk to a man who says that one of the richest merchants in town just suddenly disappeared. At night in bed the Chief thinks about having sex with the Queen. The King is told of the mysterious death of a merchant named Ma Young-Gil who smuggled Japanese weapons. What the King wants to know is if any of the ministers are involved? They are still investigating.

The Chief watches the Queen as she prays. He returns to his comrades to find the King is there dressed as a simple man. The King asks him why he returns so late? The chief’s eyes well up and the King thinks the young man has just gone through a lot. They return to the palace.

The Chief and the King sleep together.

The Queen has a fever and the King asks her if she could be pregnant? She asks her husband to forgive her. Her menstruation began a few days ago.

One of the ministers says that the chief took honeysuckle tea, said to be good for fevers, this morning,. This makes the King think that maybe there is something between the Chief and the Queen. In bed with the Chief, the King asks him to take some honeysuckle tea to the Queen. Chief Hong says her physicians can do that for her. The King says perhaps he’s right that it wouldn’t look good for the Chief to bring the Queen honeysuckle tea.

Now with the Queen and the Chief, the King says a new date for consummation should be established, but he is afraid that it might be too hard on the Queen as she has just recovered from a fever. He asks the two of them their opinion and they both wisely say that is up to the King.

Outside the Chief and the Queen glance at each other. He gives her a gift of a perfumed sachet like the one she lost recently. A banquet is held for the King and Queen. The Chief keeps glancing at the Queen.

The King asks the Queen how she found her perfumed sachet. She says her brother brought her a similar one from Yuan. Meanwhile, ministers conspire to make sure that Lord Kyungwon is enthroned at once. They consider bringing Lord Tae-Ahn, the Queen’s brother, in with them on the conspiracy.

A woman comes to speak with the chief. The next scene is of the chief searching through a library. There he finds the Queen waiting for him. She takes his hand in hers. They have sex in the library. Afterwards she gives him a handkerchief that she embroidered herself. She will come back to the library tomorrow night. Meanwhile, the King sings a song to the banquet audience. The Queen returns to the banquet.

The sub-chief reports to the Chief and the King that they found out that the man who Ma smuggled weapons to before being killed was Minister Ki Won-Hong’s steward.

Three conspirators meet together with the news that Lord Kyungweon wants a signed covenant from the ministers. They are watched by the Chief and his men. The Queen waits in the library. The chief arrives too late to meet with her.

The Queen asks the King permission to go with her brother to celebrate her nephew’s birthday. Permission granted.

The Chief reports to the King on the tailing, but the King says the sub-chief has already informed him of the matter. Why is the Chief so late in reporting the matter? The King doesn’t believe the excuse the Chief gives him about not wanting to wake him so late.

The King has a present of a horse for the Chief. He sends for the Chief, but the Chief is having sex with the Queen again, this time in the house of her brother. His Majesty waits and waits. It turns dark. The sub-chief arrives and wants to tell the King something in private.

The Queen tells the Chief that she used to despise him because the King only had eyes for him. But now she gives him flower rice cakes that she made for him herself. She says it’s a Yuan costume to present the cakes to the one a woman loves.

The sub-chief wants to have sex with the King, but the King tells him to leave.

When the Chief returns to the palace, the King is waiting for him. The King quizzes him on where he was all night. As he leaves, he tells the Chief to bring his sword to the Kunryong court.

The two men fight each other with their swords. The King knocks the sword from the Chief’s hand. He tells the Chief: "You are the Chief of the Kunryongwe. Show me true loyalty from the heart." He leaves.

The sub-chief reports tot he Chief that Minister Ki, Lord Cho and others are gathered at Wonheung Temple. Lord Tae-Ahn is also with them.

At the temple there are many who sign the commitment to Lord Kyungwon. As one of the conspirators leaves the temple he is stopped by the Chief and two other bodyguards. The Chief shoots an arrow into the man as he tries to escape on horseback. The Chief reports to the King that the man confessed everything. Lord Kyungwon’s secret envoy also had this scroll on him. It’s a list of all the men who plotted to kill the King. The King comments: "There’s not one man I can trust!"

The King speaks with the Chief. He gives the scroll back to the Cief, saying at the next banquet in a few days, he wants his bodyguards there to cut off the heads of all the conspirators, except for the Queen’s brother. The Chief will kill that man in his own house.

The banquet is held and the King says its purpose is to celebrate the victory of their troops dispatched to Yuan. The Chief arrives and the King commands that the music stop. In comes the body guards and they fan around the attendees. After a brief statement about traitors, the killing commences. All the attendees are killed.

The Chief and two body guards ride out to Lord Tae-Ahn’s place.

The King tells the Queen that he just finished executing an entire group of traitors. Her brother is one of the conspirators and Chief Hong has gone to kill him. The Queen can hardly believe what she hears.

Tae-Ahn grabs Chief Hong’s legs begging that his life be spared.

The Chief reports to the King that it is done.

The Queen comes to see the Chief in the library and asks him what happened to her brother? He tells her that her brother is alive. He and his family are headed for Yuan.

The sub-chief, however, brings the brother’s head in a box for the King to see.

The King meets with the Chief and his wife. He tells him that since things have stabilized, he wants the consummation to continue. But her partner this time won’t be the Chief but the sub-chief, Seung-Ki. Both the Queen and the Chief protest, but to no avail.

The Queen comes to the Chief and tells him they must escape from the palace. The Chief asks her to please go back because her life will be in danger. She says she doesn’t care and is not afraid. But the chief says he is afraid and she is not to come to him again.

The Chief tells the King he should be killed. He was blinded by foolish desires. The chief asks the King to kill him. The King tells him: "What good would it to do to take your life now?"

The Queen slashes her left wrist, but is saved. The King asks the Chief if the relationship was all just pure lust? The Chief says yes. The King says he will go serve at the border in a few weeks. It will help the Chief to forget.

The King and the Chief play music together. The Chief then watches the King paint a picture of him and the Chief out hunting together ready to fire their arrows at their prey. The Chief says he is leaving tomorrow for the border as scheduled. The King asks him to stay for the banquet for the returning Goryeo troops. The Chief says he’s going.

Bo-Duk, servant of the Queen, comes to see the Chief. He tells her to go away, but she comes in anyway. She tells him that the Queen wants to see him. She asks him to please come just one time.

The Chief sleeps with the King. Late at night he remembers Bo-Duk telling him that the Queen has conceived. He gets up and goes to the library. There he meets the Queen. The King, however, also awakens. The Chief apologizes to the Queen. The King comes with a small group of men to the library. The Chief starts to leave the library but the Queen puts her head on his left shoulder. She then kisses him and soon he starts kissing her. They start having sex on the floor of the library. The King and his retinue find the couple. The Queen sees the King first and stops and this causes the Chief to also stop. They both look so shocked.

The King asks the Chief: "How could you humiliate me so?" He then asks the Queen what should he do with the man. She tells the King that it is all her fault and that she should be the one to be punished. But the Chief says that the Queen is without fault and it his life is that should be taken. The Chief mentions that he loves the Queen? The King asks him: "Did you say you love the Queen?" The Chief says yes. The King says he has gone mad from the lust and orders the sub-chief to castrate the Chief at once. The Chief asks just to be killed instead, but the King insists on castration. The Queen protests, but it doesn’t do any good. The sub-chief castrates the Chief. Blood runs down the legs of the Chief. He goes unconscious.

The King is told that Her Majesty has finely conceived. The King is shocked. He tells in turn the sub-chief. He says to the sub-chief that when night arrives he is to eliminate everyone involved in the affair.

The King goes to see the Chief. He tells him that if he will come back, he will give him everything, including his kingdom.

The Queen tells Bo-Duk that she must save the Chief for all who know of this matter will be killed. Two bodyguards remove the Chief from his cell. They tell him that the Queen is already out of the palace. The Chief goes with the men. They take the Chief to a temple. He asks where is the Queen and the men have to tell him that they lied to him.

The King and the sub-chief go to the Queen and the King asks her where Chief Hong is. She says she does not know. He can take her life, but it will be no use because she simply doesn’t know. Instead of killing the Queen, the sub-chief take Bo-Duk to be killed. The Queen protests, but this does no good.

The Chief jumps on a horse and starts riding back to the palace. He rides a long ways, but then stops the horse and rides back to the temple. When her arrives at the temple it is in shambles and all the bodyguards have been taken.

At the palace the prisoners are being tortured by the King himself. He burns them with a hot iron. He demands to know where is Hong Lim? No one will talk.

The Chief goes to the palace. He sees heads on stakes above the palace walls. One of the heads is that of Bo-Duk.

The Goryeo troops come back from Yuan marching to the hurrahs of the people. Among them is Hong Lim. The King throws a banquet in their honor. The King and the sub-chief think that Hong Lim will show up.

The Queen asks the King to take down the head from the palace walls. He tells her it is none of her business. He has the sub-chief escort her to her chambers. The Queen tells the sub-chief: "You’re the only one left now who knows." He will be killed in secrecy, too. She says only he can release the King from his pain. The Queen adds if Lord Kyungwon succeeds to the throne, then she will at least spare the life of the sub-chief.

The sub-chief tells the bodyguards that Han-Baek and the others who were killed were not traitors to the country. He tells them what happened. They are informed that Hong Lim has returned to the palace.

Hong Lim confronts the King after killing his way through various bodyguards. The King asks him: "Where have you been?" Hong Lim replies: "I came to take your life, sire." He tells him to pick up his sword. The King calls him a fool and picks up his sword. They start fighting. The King asks him: "Do you really think you can beat me?" The fight continues. The King knocks Hong Lim down with a kick. A court drum is beaten. The sub-chief and his men run to the King’s quarters. Both men and wounded now, but Hong Lim a bit more than the King.

The bodyguards arrive but the King tells them not to intervene or they will be killed. The fight continues. The King stabs Hong Lim in the left shoulder. He then pushes the sword through his body to come out on the other side. The King now asks him: "Have you at least once had love for me? . . . Even once?" Hong Lim answers: "No, sire. Not even once!"

Hong Lim then pushes his body toward the King and over the sword until he can thrust his broken sword into the belly of his opponent. He succeeds. The King dies. Hong Lim pulls out the sword from his shoulder. The sub-chief then kills him with a sword thrust to the belly area.

Shortly afterward, the Queen arrives and sees the dead King and the dying Hong Lim. She wants to go to Hong Lim, but the bodyguards hold her back. Hong Lim dies.

Flashback to when the young King and the boy Hong Lim were friends. They look over the palace from a hill and agree that it looks really great from that position. There is also a flashback to the time when the two friends went out hunting on horseback together as pictured in the painting by the King of he and his friend.

 

A very good love story with quite a bit of sex.  The sex is of two kinds homo- and hetero- sexual sex.  There is not that much history in the movie, but it still kept my interest.  All three actors in the triangle relationship were very good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

918 – establishment of the Goryeo dynasty or Koryo by King Taejo.

936 – the dynasty united the Later Three Kingdoms and ruled most of the Korean peninsula..

936-943 – expand the border to today’s Wonsan in the north-east.

993 – expand the border to the Amnok River.

1271 – The Yuan Dynasty was founded as part of the Mongol Empire by Kublai Khan.

1368 – end of the Yuan Dynasty.

1374 – expand the borders to almost the whole of the Korean peninsula.

1392 – Joseon dynasty replaces the Goryeo dynasty.

 

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