Lee Chang-dong: Between Idealism and Secularism

Secret Sunshine and Poetry

An odd pairing of idealism (Shin-ae played by Chon Do-yon) and humor (Jong-chan played by Song Kang-ho), and a grotesque juxtaposition of Yun Jong-hee (an angel lost in the profane world) and the detective (enjoying obscene jokes and a sharp sense of reality) are reminiscent of the combination of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza particularly in Bakhtinian sense:

“Sancho’s materialism, his pot belly, appetite, his abundant defecation, are on the absolute lower level of grotesque realism of the humorous bodily grave (belly, bowels, earth) which has been dug for Don Quixote’s abstract and deadened idealism…This is a bodily and popular corrective to individual idealistic and spiritual pretence. Moreover, it is the popular corrective laughter applied to the narrow-minded seriousness of the spiritual pretence; it is a regenerating and laughing death. Sancho’s role in the relation to Don Quixote can be compared to the role of medieval parodies versus high ideology and cult, to the role of the clown versus serious ceremonial…[, which constitutes] the grand style of Cervantes’ realism…[and at the same time] his deep popular utopianism”

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, 22.

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