We have chosen three films from the late-1970s/early 1980s to illustrate how not so long ago Korean cinema represented shamanism. All three take the role of the mudang seriously, but do so in a largely melodramatic fashion. Two were directed by Im Kwon-taek, all were filmed by Jung Il-sung, celebrated at the last Busan Film Festival as the nation’s greatest cinematographer.
Just as in Korea people may even now call upon the consoling presence and healing rituals of a variety of shaman practitioners, it is also true for cinema that the uncanny world of the mudang maintains its hold on artistic creativity. In 2010 Park Chan-wook teamed up with his brother Chan-kyong to make the haunting short film Night Fishing. Media made much of the fact that the film had been shot using iPhone technology. However, at the heart of the film lies a mudang ceremony of summoning, consoling and dismissing of a spirit trapped between the world of the living and that of the dead, one which could not be more Korean low-tech traditional.