Friday, April 27, 2012

Tree With Deep Roots Review (2011)

Drama Rating: ****
Personal Rating: All time favourite!!

The story tells the tale of the great King Sejong beginning with the turbulent era of his youth to the handover of power from his father King Taejong. Ddol Bok, son of a slave, believes Sejong to be behind the death of his father and resolves to take revenge. Meanwhile, a secret conspiracy named Milbon appears to have taken root during his father's reign and threatens to overturn the peaceful beginnings of the Joseon Dynasty. How will Sejong face these threats to his reign?

*Spoiler warning*

At first glance, this seems like a typical historical sageuk but as the story unfolds, you begin to see the drama's strong appeal as elements of mysteries, thrillers and tragedies are blended together to form one superb tale. I was entirely blown away by screenwriter Kim Young Hyun for her brilliant storytelling. Having seen the captivating Queen Seon Deok series, her most immediate work prior to this drama, I was surprised to see this drama taken to the next level. The script is filled with brilliant confrontations, secretive and elaborate plot lines, and an unusually large number of gripping, personal monologues making this drama deeply riveting. The initial mysterious nature of the events was splendidly done with great secrecy and definitely kept the audience guessing as well as to what exactly was going on. The one weakness about this drama was likely the ending. Although the drama never lost its philosophical bent, the final turn of events felt a little too forced and contrived that it felt a bit out of place. This was rather unfortunate as the writing for the rest of the series was top notch.

Han Suk Kyo plays a superb King Sejong, of the same calibre as Kim Myeong Min in Beethoven Virus. His portrayal encompasses both his public and private personas, something rarely done in dramas to this extent. The story vividly explores the dark, inner turmoil in his mind as he struggles to come to terms with various events and occurrence and effectively shows the psychological toll it takes on him. The rest of the cast was decently strong, from Jang Hyuk's Kang Chae Yoon and Shin Se Kyung's So Yi all the way to Yoon Je Moon's masterful performance as Garion. I could probably go on and on about the each one of the great individual supporting characters but that would likely make this review far longer than I'd like. To summarize it up though, the combination of the writing and acting uses pathos to an extent I have rarely seen in dramas to great success, depicting just how frail and human each of the characters are.

A wide variety of music was used throughout this drama to represent a wide range of feelings and emotions in this drama. For example, an interesting triple meter dance was used in a jolly way to give a chummy, village feel whereas some of the more somber and darker situations had an almost Pictures at an Exhibition Baba Yaga-esque feel to them. A stormy, incessant, restless energy is generated by the music to build on some of the tensions in the story while sweeping grand, regal tones were used to represent the king at various intervals. This fine soundtrack greatly supplemented the drama and truly enhanced the feelings and emotions expressed.

With a riveting, gripping storyline and some of the most spectacular acting performances I've ever seen, this drama unquestionably reigns as one of the best and one of my favourite dramas ever. Although I'm not a historical sageuk junkie in particular, I truly admire this drama for its universal ability to connect to the audience and deliver highly engrossing performances throughout. Surprisingly, philosophical debates have never felt so captivating and this drama unabashedly demonstrates why it is a drama worth experiencing firsthand.

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