On a cold winter's day at the end of last year, a man knocked the door of the Beautiful Foundation. He looked a bit shy and nervous as he looked around the office but finally began to say what he had to say: "My production company is currently making a film to release around next September, and after we hit the break-even point, I want to donate 50% of the profit in hopes of filming in success and creating a movie that would be loved by many people. The man was Joo Pil-ho, CEO of Jupiter Film. Like he wished, the movie, Face Reader, successfully opened in theaters this fall and has already attracted nearly 10 million viewers.
Clearly the movie struck a chord in Korean viewers, and the chord, I believe, has a lot to do with the sheer appeal that people get from the very idea of telling one's fortune by reading the face. Face reading, or physiognomy, is in other words 'a statistics of faces.' It is based on the database of experience accumulated and documented by countless people for thousands of years. Maybe it is only natural that so many of us are drawn to the story, hoping that face reading might provide a clear direction to our lives, which always seems somehow twisted and full of riddles.
But how else could "face reading" be understood in today's Korea, also known as the 21st century cosmetic surgery central of the world? The movie leaves us with a fundamental question on face reading itself through the story of an unbelievably talented face reader and the history unfolding around him. In the last scene, Kim Naekyung, the face reader, says to himself standing on a beach, "I was looking so hard at the wave that I failed to see the wind. Little did I know that it is the wind that creates the wave." It showed the belated realization that despite being a genius in face reading, he couldn't read what really moved the world. It is indeed not easy to see what's in people's minds, in their path, and what goes on around them, just by studying their faces. It would be even more so today, as people's faces today are much more "indecipherable" with the sophisticated cosmetic surgeries, makeup, and the so-called "poker faces."
The time we're living in calls for a truly talented face reader that could see not only the wave but also the wind, since facial features can easily be altered. Paradoxically enough, "The Face Reader" shows us the importance of looking beyond what's on the face.