The importance of camera position in K-dramas: Love in Sadness and Lawless Lawyer

You might wonder why I will talk about the drama Lawless Lawyer from 2018 next to Love in Sadness. First, I would like to recommend this drama as it was very good. The other reason is that I wrote many analyses about this drama in a forum and thought that I should post these here too. Moreover, with these two dramas I intent to sensitize the viewers about the camera position as people usually pay more attention to the story and the dialogue than the visuals.

Right in the episode 1, we had a scene with the staircase where the statue of Lady Justice is standing. I already sensed the importance of this scene as there was no dialogue and the scene was quite long. I immediately thought, this should be perceived as a metaphor of Cha Moon Sook’s (CMS) actual situation.

Lawless Lawyer episode 1 CMS 1.png
episode 1: the judge Cha Moon Sook

On the surface, it looks like CMS has always dedicated her life to justice. Notice the position of the sun. It shines right above the statue of justice standing in the middle of the stair case which creates the impression that justice has been her religion. All her life evolves around justice so that we can come to the conclusion that this place is a temple. This explains too why CMS has such a good reputation as judge hence she is about to be designated as judge for the Supreme Court. However, this scene ends with this taking.

Lawless Lawyer episode 1 CMS 2.png
episode 1

Not only she turns away from Lady Justice indicating that there was a change in her life, but she also turns her back on the statue implying that she has a different goal in her life. Although this scene appeared in the first episode, we discover later that she was the one who sent the notebook to Bong Sang Pil in order to use him to get rid of the people involved in her schemes hence this scene mirrors that CMS had always been aiming higher than justice. Moreover, she had already prepared all the moves BSP would do. She would let him push AOJ to commit more crimes so that he could be cornered. She knew that BSP would attempt to send her former minions to jail so that she would be able to become a judge for the Supreme Court.

Lawless Lawyer episode 4 CMS and her father.png
CMS with her minions (from the left to the right): Ahn Oh Joo, Jang Sang Ik, CMS in the middle, Son Sung Sik, Han Tae Kyung, Nam Soo Ja, Go In Doo,

Here, we have the inauguration of CBH’s statue. CBH was CMS’s father. Unlike in the former scene, there is no sun and the statue of justice is now sharing her space with the statue of a former judge. Furthermore, you will notice the huge difference between the two statues. While the goddess of justice is blind, the judge is not. He is even wearing glasses indicating that the judge was not fair as he can be influenced by money or power. Secondly, he is not holding a scale but a book. This second element reinforces the impression that CBH was not a fair judge but more a dictator who used the laws for his own advantage. His hammer and the law book were his weapons. The statue of the judge mirrors the true personality of CBH: he was a tyrant. So this inauguration outshines that CMS has already changed her strategy. She will use the law like a tyrant but under the disguise of Lady Of justice. Here we see that the minions around her are gathered differently. Jang Sang Ik and An Oh Ju are standing under the Lady of Justice, while Son Sung Sik (president of the bank), Han Tae Kyung (editor-in-chief), Nam Soon Ja (unofficial contact) and Go In Doo (lawyer and ex-judge) are standing on the other side, right under CBH’s statue. Since SSS ended up in jail and now NSJ has been arrested, I can imagine that this will happen to the others as well. I suspect that AOJ and JSI will play an important role in CMS’s fall as witnesses, hence they are standing under the statue of Lady of Justice.  

Lawless Lawyer 12 CMS and sun.png
CMS in a different episode

Compared to the former picture, it becomes even more evident that in this scene CMS is acting more like a king, ruling like a dictator. This represents the peak of her career. The position of the sun underlines this interpretation. Nevertheless, the other huge difference is that she is alone. Since we know that her goal was to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, she had to get rid of her minions. Now, we can understand that this picture symbolizes her real goal: she has used The 7 club as a tool. She never cared for them, her dream was to achieve what her father had failed to realize. However, the Lady of Justice is still standing and CMS is seen between these two statues. Her position illustrates that she keeps the appearances of a real judge. In the name of Justice, she gives sentences as she pleases, see f. ex. the death sentence for the murderer of a woman. However, we see her looking at her father’s statue which unveil her true intention and personality. She is not different from her father. Her true religion was her father. She seems to have a inferiority complex concerning her father. CMS wants to prove to him that she is his rightful daughter and she is even better than him.

In the episode 13, we have two scenes with the staircase:

  1. The interview
Lawless Lawyer 13 CMS interview 1.png
CMS with the journalist
  1. Notice the changes. First. there is no sun. Then the the head of the lady of Justice is hidden and finally, we see CMS sitting under the statue of her father. As we observe, CMS has dropped the appearances of a fair and humble judge. She no longer acts as if she was serving the Lady of Justice. Her speech reminds me a lot a speech held by Hitler who always told that he would change Germany for the better and used the laws to persecute his enemies: 
    “I think, there is always pain that comes with change. If I become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, I’ll overcome the pain that follows after ending the old generation. Using justice as foundation, I’ll work hard to innovate the law of the Republic of Korea”.
    Her speech reveals that she intents to use her position to undermine the constitution of Korea and rule as a true tyrant. The irony is that she presents herself as a selfless martyr who will suffer for the others, whereas the opposite will happen in reality. The old generation means the end of the constitution. The scene ends with this shot.
Lawless Lawyer 13 CMS interview 2.png
CMS under her father’s statue
  1. Her father’s statue is in the background reinforcing the feeling that she will be a ruthless and cold-hearted dictator. But since there was no sun, only a spot illuminating CBH’s statue, we could see it as an indication that CMS’s reign as tyrant is not real. She is not appointed yet.
  2. The appearance of BSP at the stair case
Lawless Lawyer 13 BSP and sun.png
Bong Sang Pil played by Lee Joon Ki

2. This time, BSP is the one who enters the temple. Just like CMS, he is alone which reflects his own life. He has always been a lonely fighter, someone who was determined to seek justice. CMS is wondering if he is seeking revenge or justice. On the other hand, the sun shines this time unlike in the scene mentioned just before which represents an answer to the villain’s question. Furthermore the long fight of BSP represents the return of the real justice. This scene marks the return of the real justice and at some point, CBH’s statue will be removed as CMS’s crimes will be revealed. The great judge is sent to prison and her good reputation is ruined forever. This drama was inspired by the scandal concerning the former president of South Korea, Park Geun Hye who was sentenced to 24 years in prison due to corruption and abuse of power. She was the daughter of the 3rd president of South Korea and the latter has been criticized for his dictatorship and undemocratic ways.  As you can see, the visuals are quite important because they give more info than it meets the eye.

But now let’s take a closer look at the camera position in the K-drama Love In Sadness that is actually airing. Striking is that the director often uses a duplication of a character.

YMR in episode 1

By duplicating Yoon Ma Ri, the director wanted to convey an important message. Notice that the second version is fading away, she is disappearing. And this is no coincidence. YMR is about to lose herself, her soul by remaining by her husband’s side. She is not even allowed to choose her own clothes. She lives trapped in a cage hence the window with the bare reflects her actual position: she is a prisoner. She is not even allowed to paint outdoors which explains why her latest painting looks so gloomy and depressing. She can no longer paint as she has run out of energy and inspiration. So this explains why the second YMR is disappearing, she is about to lose herself and her soul. 

SJW in the episode 13

The director had used the same special effect with SJW in an earlier episode so this is the second time that SJW is shown twice. Here, SJW is eating alone in his dining room. YMR wants to keep her distance from him until he knows how to face YMR. She will wait for him until he will solely think of her with this face. This taking should be perceived that way: the old SJW is slowly disappearing, the man who loved WHK but was hurt by her. As time passes on, SJW starts missing YMR more and more. This taking reinforces the loneliness of the surgeon but also his need for YMR’s presence. In this scene, there is no dialogue at all however the director is trying to convey SJW’s inner thoughts and feelings. Just like in the other scene mentioned above, the camera is placed behind a glass so that the viewer can feel that SJW has been living in a prison that he created himself.

KIW with his gun: episode 14

Before I start analyzing this scene, it is important to put this scene in the context. Finally KIW has been able to locate YMR’s mother. He even heard that YMR had been there just before his arrival and he even missed her for a few minutes. Moreover, he has realized the connection between YMR and the surgeon SJW because YMR’s mother mentioned the presence of her son-in-law. KIW is upset and even jealous that YMR seems to have replaced him with another man, he already suspects the doctor. We shouldn’t forget that KIW had a nightmare a few nights ago (episode 13), where he dreamt, he was running after his bride YMR, only to witness the appearance of another groom. When he is finally able to reach YMR, he identifies the groom as SJW and is surprised to discover that the bride running away was WHK which confused him.

KIW’s nightmare: he has already perceived the truth unconsciously: YMR has WHK’s face.
SJW with YMR: they are already in love
KIW is sure that the bride running away from him is YMR
KIW is shocked to see WHK’s face.

So now our antihero KIW knows that there is a man around YMR therefore KIW returns home, totally upset and enraged. Even YMR’s mother dared to call the other man her son-in-law. KIW has the impression that his worst nightmare has become true. However, he still doesn’t know that YMR has WHK’s face. Just like in the other duplication scenes, the camera is put behind the window, we can also see the frame reinforcing the idea that KIW lives in his own world, a prison he has created himself. So after his arrival, he takes the gun from the dresser. If you look at the first picture of this scene, KIW is seen twice. However, it changes a little because the two pictures reveals that the duplication is incomplete. It was as if there were three KIW standing, yet the two other reflections are partially visible. This mirrors his own inner conflict: will he use the gun or not? Notice that his gaze is always directed at the gun. So far, KIW has never revealed this side of him in front of other people. Only YMR could see this terrible and dangerous side. But his rage and violence is so huge that at the end, he is resolved to use the gun.

The final taking of the same scene: KIW with his gun

That’s why the viewer sees this duplication at the end. KIW is determined to use violence in order to catch his wife. To me, the second reflection represents the monster in him which is now visible. The snake that has been hiding behind his charisma and his mysterious aura is now shown to the world. He doesn’t care anymore about his reputation. This explains why KIW wears his leather jacket and threatens HSH and later JHR. He is even more vicious with JHR because he resents her for her manipulation and her arrogance.

This is when he aims his gun at JHR’s face

Unlike in the former taking, KIW is now aiming his gun at a real person, while before he was just aiming at the window. To conclude, the effect of duplication is often used by this director in order to let the viewers perceive what the characters are thinking and feeling but also to reflect their own situation. All of them are living in a cage, caught by fear and by their own past and emotions. The only difference is that YMR’s cage was not self-created.

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