I chose these two takings from the first episode
because they mark the turning point in CSH’s life. This scene represents CSH’s awakening and the eyes are the evidence of CSH’s change. When someone sleeps, the persons closes his eyes. So the eyes reveal if the person is awakened or asleep. However, when someone is in a coma or vegetative state, the eyes can remain opened, yet they show neither emotions nor reaction to their surrounding. To sum up, the eyes represent an important signal for the physical state of a person. Since CSH explained to JWS (episode 7) that she had been in a coma for so long, we can conclude that her eyes had been opened all this time but they were emotionless and distant. So the eyes in the second taking above illustrates the change in CSH’s mind: her eyes are shining like stars, even smiling because she has been touched by the beauty of the sunset. All of her senses are fully awakened now. She is reacting to the sunset and to the wonderful music.
This explains why the famous Roman senator Cicero (1. Century BC) wrote once: “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter”. From ancient times, people could notice the importance of the eyes. In French and in English, we have the saying too that eyes are the mirror of the soul. Why? First, we have no control over our eyes, unlike our mouth. With the latter, we can decide to remain mute or lie or say the truth, however it is not the same for the eyes hence the eyes give away a lot of information about our emotional state. The person can never really control his emotions. People can fake their smile but they often forget about their eyes. We could use as example for this CSH’s smile at the end of the episode 14. She fakes happiness, while her eyes reveal her sadness and pain. Hence the gaze is connected to sincerity and genuineness. Moreover, the eye is more complex compared to the lips, as it is composed of a pupil, the tears, an eyebrow, eyelid, the corner of the eye, of possible dark circle under the eye. Furthermore, we have two eyes and not just one which reinforce the expressed emotions.
But let us go back to the eyes of our heroine before the awakening (episode 7). They show neither reaction nor emotion. Her eyes are totally blank. This scene confirms her allegation, when she confronted Jung Woo Suk in the episode 9.
She really looks like a person in a vegetative state as she doesn’t even move her head or her body. Striking is that CSH’s eyes are looking down. And this gesture is really important. First, this reflects her actual situation. By lowering her eyes, she is in reality lowering herself in front of her mother-in-law. Her eyes outline her inferiority in front of Chairman Kim. Secondly her action shows that she is actually avoiding people’s gaze. While her mother-in-law is talking to her, she keeps staring at her dish. Why is she avoiding people’s gaze, if she is in a coma? We have to understand that the eyes have another function as well. They can reflect the other. The other’s gaze is a substitute for the mirror. If CSH looked into the chairman’s eyes, she would see a glimpse of herself, but it is a deformed reflection because the chairman Kim judges her at the same time. She only catches a small part of CSH. Through her mother-in-law, she would see herself in a coma. She would be reminded of her terrible situation which would increase her pain. But if you pay attention to the scene in the episode 7, you’ll notice that the chairman Kim is doing the same. She is also avoiding CSH’s eyes. Only when her son appeared, she turned her head towards him and looked at him. Later, we discover why JWS’s mother avoided CSH’s eyes.
Chairman Kim says: ” I always felt uncomfortable about the look in her eyes. That look in her eyes always bothers me. I hated her for that.”
Why did she dislike CSH’s eyes? A simple answer would be that CSH’s eyes were different. CSH never envied or admired her and her son. While all the others would worship them and try to get closer to them, CSH was never attracted by them. The mother-in-law couldn’t bear the thought that someone was looking at her differently, was not considering her as a queen. That’s why chairman Kim abused her and tried to control CSH. In this scene (episode 7), the mother-in-law gives the following orders:
“Get your hair done… wear the clothes they prepared (…) People would be waiting to see your face. You have to be tidier than situation like this. Smile more. But don’t smile too much.”
As you can see, she is taking control of CSH’s body. She treats her daughter-in-law like a doll which explains why her son criticized her in an earlier episode for treating CSH like a thing. But this is not just the hair and the clothes, but also the way she smiles and she moves. And now we have to remember this: we have no control over the eyes. How can the mother-in-law take control over the eyes, if the owner can not even control them. This is impossible. The mother-in-law was fighting against nature, a doomed battle. Now we have another explanation why the mother-in-law was upset. This was the only thing she could never control as CSH couldn’t even control her own eyes. This underlines the dictatorial tendency of JWS’s mother. A third explanation is that the chairman Kim also saw a glimpse of herself in CSH’s eyes which she didn’t like. As I said before, the eyes function as a mirror, although the reflection is deformed as the other judges you at the same time. Chairman Kim saw a part of herself, she didn’t want to see: the abusive, greedy and selfish person. CSH might have been in a vegetative state and never react to her mother-in-law’s cruel words, however CSH never stopped thinking and couldn’t stop herself from resenting JWS’s mother. This would infuriate the mother-in-law which would force her to abuse CSH even more and it became a vicious circle, until CSH and JWS’s mother avoided each other’s gaze as it had become too unbearable.
Since we talked about mirrors, I would like to explain why CSH was so obsessed with mirrors. She had one next to her desk and in her bedroom. Her mirrors were even huge. The mirrors outlined her loneliness, by having her own reflection next to her, she would feel less lonely. Moreover, by looking at herself, she would feel that she was still alive. The mirror would confirm her existence, would reassure her… Moreover, this would give her the opportunity to take control over her body. The mirror reflects the image she wishes to see but the problem with the mirror is that it doesn’t really help you to see your personality, only the appearance. On the other hand, the other’s gaze let see you a part of your personality… even if it’s a deformed and partial view. Only with the presence of another person, you can discover your true self. CSH tried to see herself in the mirror but she only saw her appearance not her personality. Only after meeting KJH and looking at his eyes, she started seeing herself and discovering herself. Remember that she said that she had many identities (CJH’s daughter f. ex.) but in reality, she was seeking for her own identity. Who is exactly CSH, the person behind this name? While the chairman’s gaze revealed to her an terrible reflection, with KJH she could perceive her good side. His eyes let her see how beautiful she was. But she never saw her own happiness. That’s why KJH’s words in the episode 16 are so important. “With these pictures, you will see a side of you that you never knew”.
Now, we have another aspect: the importance of the pictures. The pictures serve here as a mirror of her happiness, the side she never saw and knew. Neither the mirror nor the eyes were able to allow her to discover another glimpse of herself.
As you can see, CSH was desperately searching for her own identity and personality all this time and had no idea how to find it. The pictures helped her to find herself and allowed her to choose happiness. And this also justifies why CSH is determined to take many pictures later. For her, the pictures have a meaningful purpose. Because they helped her, she realises the importance of pictures. However, when she sees herself in the pictures, she is not alone. Teacher Lee is by her side and tells her how she judges the pictures: “I really love your expressions. How pretty. You look happy”. Then she remembers Kim Jin Hyuk’s words:
As conclusion, Cha Soo Hyun can only discover herself thanks to the pictures and thanks to the eyes of her boyfriend and teacher Lee. Alone, she wouldn’t have been capable. Through the eyes of others, the human being is able to perceive himself, discover a part of his personality. This idea comes from the French philosopher Sartre who wrote the theater play “No exit” (Huis-clos) where the 3 dead main characters, reunited in a room, are forced to live together and see their own flaws in the eyes of the others as there is no mirror in the room. They realize what kind of persons they truly were in their past life. That’s why this famous phrase comes from this work: “Hell is other people”. Actually, Sartre is not saying that we should avoid social contact, it is just that the eyes of others might become unpleasant as we see a glimpse of ourselves in them. However, the real conclusion is to incite people to make the right decisions and to do good to others so that the gaze of others reflect a good image and judgement of ourselves. Here, the happiness of Cha Soo Hyun will shine and be reflected in Kim Jin Huyk’s eyes. It will make him happy and that’s what Cha Soo Hyun realized in the dark room.