“Self-symbol” and “Point-of-view” Phrasing in the Cinéma Vérité Aesthetic of So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain

Conference: The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film (MediAsia2021)
Title: “Self-symbol” and “Point-of-view” Phrasing in the Cinéma Vérité Aesthetic of So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Michael Ogden, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
Anne Misawa, University of Hawaiʻi, United States


"Self-symbol", famously associated with Japanese auteur filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu — where in, every shot, cut, character, and story situation, while functioning in the context of the film’s narrative, is not referring to anything but itself—projects a realist virtue and an artistic simplicity that defines his films. In Korean-American filmmaker So Yong Kim’s TREELESS MOUNTAIN (2008), this same realist virtue plays out in the storyworld of the film’s two resilient young female protagonists adrift in a world of adult (mostly benign) neglect. As a production complement to self-symbol, “point-of-view” (POV) phrasing is commonly used to convey the literal first-person camera angle (i.e. camera framing, placement, and lensing) and also addresses the larger access point for a film’s storytelling imperatives (from whose world the story is told) as enshrined by the director and creative team. Such techniques and priorities are likewise demonstrated in TREELESS MOUNTAIN, finding similarities in such social realist films as NOBODY KNOWS (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2004), PONETTE (Jacques Doillon, 1996), and ROSETTA (Dardenne brothers, 1996), that aim to honor the child protagonist’s perspective as the key POV for the emotional narrative set within a cinéma vérité aesthetic. Employing both formal film analysis and film production theory, this paper will analyze the effective use of self-symbol and POV phrasing in the cinéma vérité aesthetics of Kim’s TREELESS MOUNTAIN. In so doing, the contrast between Eastern and Western storytelling imperatives, production techniques, and narrative sentiments can be better understood and appreciated in this semiautobiographical story of child abandonment.

Conference Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Presentation