Concrete Utopia Gala Presentation at Roy Thomson Hall
guests: Byun Seung-min (producer) LEE Byung-hun (actor) PARK Bo-young (actress) PARK Ji-hu (actress) PARK Seo-jun (actor) UM Taehwa (director)
In the opening moments of Um Tae-hwa’s riveting new disaster epic, an earthquake renders much of Seoul a smouldering ruin. But as survivors begin efforts to restore order, it seems the real calamity has only just begun.
An earthquake renders much of Seoul a smouldering ruin in the opening minutes of this riveting post-apocalyptic epic from director Um Tae-hwa (Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned). But as survivors begin efforts to restore order, it seems the real calamity has only just begun.
From their balcony at the Hwang Gung apartment complex, Min-seong (Parasite’s Park Seo-jun) and Myeong-hwa (Park Bo-young) look out on nothing but corpses and rubble. It seems a miracle their building remains standing when all the others are destroyed. A stranger and her small child soon arrive at Min-seong and Myeong-hwa’s door begging to be let in, followed by dozens of others from the surrounding area desperately seeking food and shelter. As days pass and no rescue teams turn up, the tenants assemble, survey their limited resources, and vote to evict the “outsiders.” When Yeong-tak (I Saw the Devil’s Lee Byung-hun), the tenants’ elected leader, announces that the outsiders must leave Hwang Gung, all hell breaks loose. From this point on, tenants must be prepared to protect their property by any means necessary.
Not unlike his fellow countryman Bong Joon-ho, Um brilliantly fuses wry social critique with spectacular genre storytelling. Based on the second part of Kim Sung-nyung’s Cheerful Outcast webtoon, Concrete Utopia is a sobering parable, following its characters’ gradual descent into ruthless tribalism in a way that eerily mirrors so many contemporary global events. Only when all hope is lost do we glimpse the possibility of generosity, and some much-needed self-determination.