Skip to Content
The Korean Wedding Chest    cover photo

The Korean Wedding Chest 2009


Distributed by Women Make Movies, 115 W. 29th Street, Suite 1200,New York, NY, 10001; 212-925-0606
Produced by Ulrike Ottinger
Directed by Ulrike Ottinger
DVD, color, 88 min.

College - General Adult
Anthropology, Korea, Documentaries, Folklore, Marriage

Date Entered: 04/23/2014

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Award-winning German filmmaker Ottinger takes as her subject the intricacies of the Korean wedding ceremony and in the process communicates a unique view on traditional customs, rituals and procedures that even in modern Asia are important social signifiers for the joining of two families. Commissioned by the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul, the 2008 film follows an unnamed bride and groom as they prepare for and begin married life together. From the placement of symbolic love padlocks on a local wire fence to the final formalized individual wedding photographs and group tableaux, this visually stunning ethnographic study thoroughly captivates with its record of the various traditions and industries that surround the marriage ceremony.

The eponymous traditional wedding chest that is delivered to the home of the bride’s parents is one such symbol. Each item in the chest carries a different meaning and the arrangement of each item in the chest is also important. Ottinger similarly observes other meaningful activities that take place at a busy wedding palace where bride, groom and wedding party are pawns in the hands of event planners and assistants. The importance of the photographic record and the effort that goes into making it (even more than the event itself) is also examined.

With minimal dialogue and narration, unusual camera angles, Ottinger’s poetic alt.doc style effectively and evocatively utilizes the sights and sounds of a society that embraces both the old and new in distinctive and interesting ways. Recommended for general audiences and those with a specific interest in wedding customs, ethnographies, or Korean studies.