Based off of a book of the same title, Chronicle of a Blood Merchant tells the story of a man who falls in love with a woman and sells blood to be able to afford to court and marry her. This book is based off of a Chinese novel by Yu Hua, and it is has been adapted to fit South Korean settings. The movie is directed by Ha Jung Woo, a South Korean actor turned director. Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is actually Ha’s second directorial endeavor.
Ha introduces the main characters quickly, helping the viewer to understand the cadence of agrarian life in old Korea. Ha’s characters are unvarnished and quotidian; he does a great job of conveying that through dialogue, settings and staging. The movie starts out very light, comical in fact. However, the main character’s quest to earn the right to a bride eventually fades into a more serious topic of paternity, belonging and sacrifice in what can only be described as a heart-wrenching tale of familial love.
I watched this 2015 movie on an international flight, over terrible pasta and a dry strudel. This charming adaption truly made me laugh and cry. My fellow passengers noted my sobs, as I wiped away a stream of tears to peer at the screen nested in the head rest of the seat in front of me.
The nuances that Ha was able to capture in the direction of the characters, the cadence of the music and the cinematography made the people and places of Chronicle of a Blood Merchant, real and palpable. It was only during the end that the movie began to drag a little. I felt Ha could have wrapped up the story a little tidier—with less melodramatics, while still getting his point across.
Despite the beauty and novelty of this $9.2 million film, the movie grossed only $6.8 million at the Korean box office, certainly a loss for Ha. Nevertheless, I am certain this movie was unfortunately overlooked by Korean moviegoers. Chronicle of a Blood Merchant is a poignant story of love and family that should not be overlooked. It is a story of belonging and fatherhood that conveys a level of depth and warmth that I have not seen often in film. I highly recommend it!