Empress Myeongseong is a revolutionary figure in Korean History, central to the changing Korean politics of the 19th century and her story is ripe for dramatic interpretation. A cursory glance at a history book, not written by the Japanese, will easily spoil the ending of her story, as is the case for any historical figure. It”s a fascination story that gaining popularity within Korean Media.
The Empress features largely in the Korean Epic, the Sword with no Name, though the film relegates the political intrigue to the backdrop and focuses on a fictional romance between the Empress and a ragged rogue turned devoted protector. It’s an interesting decision. It allows actress Su Ae to balance the already complex character of Myeongseong with a more intimate touch regarding her personal relationships and she does a radiant job. As the centerpiece of the film, Su Ae holds a quiet captivating confidence that only hints at the sort of person the real Empress Myeongseong is, and we easily understand why the titular character falls headlong into love with her.
It’s a shame that rest of film teeters its balance of political intrigue, martial arts and romance into melodramatic territory often. The romance, although well acted, often falls to cliche to progress its story, leaving the more interesting beats of family feuding and foreign involvement to play fragmentarily in the background. The rest of film has its fair share of odd moments, the least of which is the CGI sheen to the fight sequences and a carelessly dropped anachronism. The film works well for an epic otherwise, more so for bringing Empress Myeongseong to cinematic life than for the melodrama surrounding her fictional affair. You might find yourself falling in love with her as much as the Koreans and foreigners did.