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Cinéma, société et architecture en République Populaire Démocratique de Corée : Une lecture engagée du film nord-coréen « Les roues du bonheur » (Haengbok-ŭi sure pakwi = The Wheels of Happiness, 2010)

Abstract : Based upon the graduate seminar tought in 2014-2015 by Valérie Gelézeau at l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), this essay tries to engage a reading of the North Korean movie 'The Wheels of Happiness' (2010). After an introduction briefly reviewing the condition of production and the nature of cinema in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the paper proposes to go beyond usual readings of North Korean fictions that often limit their conclusions and demonstration to the fact that they convey State propaganda. Drawing from the film’s aesthetics, we questioned its narrative structure and analyzed its discourse. What do' The Wheels of Happiness' tell us about North Korean cinema and society today? What can bring to the scholarship an engaged reading of this movie? The engagement involved is modest but significant: we tried to implement an approach that means to understand, before it judges. Our reading thus takes into account the context of cinematographic production in the DPRK (a cinema controlled by the censorship of a totalitarian State using art to impose its ideology), without drifting into the simplistic moral judgments that the analysis of art and literary productions coming from the DPRK usually instigates. In a first part, the paper gives an account of synopsis and the story, before discussing certain aspects of the movie’s symbolic discourse and aesthetics, in the North Korean context. We particularly develop on the issue of temporality (symbolically evoked by the “Wheels” of the title) that structures the narration, which refers to certain aesthetics’ standards of the national cinema. In the second part, we analyze what 'The Wheels of Happiness' tell us about contemporary Korean society. In the core of the discourse stand gender issues and the woman’s role in society, between family, work, and patriotic dedication. But two other topics brought interesting discussions: the first one dealing with objects of the material civilization as diverse as food and computers; the other one dealing with the central issue, political and national, of architecture in Pyongyang. This work points out to the limitations of approaches via film and cinema without much access to the agents of their production or sources allowing us to approach them – which is the case of most North Korean materials. The essay questions what North Koreans say about themselves and their society, within the very logics of official discourse and propaganda; by doing so, it applies a state of mind that hopes to avoid the moralizing “Othering” of North Korea where many narratives about that country (by media, experts and even academics) are often trapped. In the end, it is a concrete application of the seminar that proposed to think about epistemological conditions to study North Korea, ways to approach fieldwork and available sources and materials.
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Contributor : Valérie Gelézeau Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 1, 2015 - 12:39:07 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 15, 2022 - 3:32:30 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 9:05:26 PM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-01170311, version 1


Valérie Gelézeau. Cinéma, société et architecture en République Populaire Démocratique de Corée : Une lecture engagée du film nord-coréen « Les roues du bonheur » (Haengbok-ŭi sure pakwi = The Wheels of Happiness, 2010). 2015. ⟨halshs-01170311⟩



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