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Joongang Daily, April 15th 2017: ” ‘Saimdang’ to end series earlier than planned. The SBS series “Saimdang, Memoir of Colors” will end earlier than originally planned, its distributor said Thursday, as the fantasy period drama suffered from low ratings. The Wednesday-Thursday drama starring actress Lee Young-ae premiered on Jan. 26 on SBS as a 30-episode series. SBS said it will end on May 3 or May 4, a week earlier than scheduled.”

saimdang poster

I don’t want to boast or claim anything, but it took me just the two first episodes to say “This is gonna be a flop”. I thought I would have been touched by Saimdang’s history: the documentary I had previously seen about her was promising – with a mother that encouraged her daughter’s studies – but the drama disappointed me even if the female lead is a great actress (I don’t think the same of the male lead Song Seung-heon…) and even if we could see, at last, a supporting character wearing a size larger than zero while doing a meaningful job…. but the italian footage in present day sucked too much and said too much about the shallowness of the script.

The following notes are dedicated to all those k-drama fans’ sites where users wrote really incorrect (and even stupid) things about Italy as they were commenting “Saimdang”:

a) The lines of the italian “actors” do not match the english translation so I guess they don’t match the korean translation either;

b) The subtitles say the villa is in Tuscany and the city is Bologna, but Bologna belongs to another region (Emilia Romagna) and the scene of the “crazy korean woman” has been clearly shot in Florence (Ponte Vecchio and surroundings);

c) The villa’s name, “Siesta di luna”, is not italian, let alone the italian spoken in the year 1551: siesta is the spanish word for nap (it would be “sonnellino” for us), and it is a word that has been absorbed by our language much later. Besides, no owner would have named his/her villa “Sonnellino della Luna” in that age – the surname of the family or something picked by topography or mythology would have been chosen;

d) Obviously our country has laws about the so called “beni culturali” – historical buildings and artefacts such as paintings, etc. No guardian or civil servant or estate agent (the man in the drama states in italian “I’m not the owner”) is allowed to give what can be found in an ancient villa as a gift to a visitor but even so, the korean lady wouldn’t have been able to carry those objects out of Italy lawfully due to the strict control measures at the airport;

e) Yes, our country has a great burden of misogyny, domestic violence, femicide and street harassment: but it’s unbelievable that every single stranger Lee Young-ae meets in Italy speaks to her in what we can call “banmal” (we usually speak in the third person to adult people we don’t know: lei – not tu) and calls her “bella” (beautiful): that made me feel like shouting “are you mad or what” and “have you done proper research” to the scriptwriter.

I remember two similar huge missteps: a drama where a young woman, boasting her fresh studies in Italy, states that “pasta” (spaghetti etc.) is made with tomatoes and can trigger allergies – it’s the common sauce or gravy for pasta that uses them, pasta is made with flour, water and salt; and a documentary about traditional garments where was asked to an italian stylist about hanbok while she was wearing one: she said more or less “Yes the fabric it’s beautiful but I will have to modify the dress if I really want to use it, because now I cannot walk”: the korean translation and the english translation of it were fakes like “OMG it’s really great!”

Finally, for the historical part of drama: 1) it was boring beyond expectations and its pace so predictable I guessed almost every scene coming; 2) hardly explored what art meant to Saimdang, what she was trying to express and leave behind, who she really was, because most of the time the focus was on a fictional and broken and crossed and impossible love story – and triangles and even quadrangles added no flavour to it. Maria G. Di Rienzo.

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