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The Korean Wedding Chest
Die Koreanische Hochzeitstruhe
A film by Ulrike Ottinger
Germany/South Korea, 2008, 82 minutes, Color, DVD, Korean, Subtitled
Order No. W131107
Ulrike Ottinger’s provocative mélange of ethnography, stunning tableaux and baroque vignettes was inspired by what she calls the “well-stocked miracle” of Korean wedding chests, assembled according to time-honored customs. This exploration of love and marriage in South Korea looks closely at ancient and present-day rituals, revealing what is old in the new and new in the old. Her inquiry leads us from shamans, temples and priests, to the enchanted maze of 21st-century Seoul, where vendors of medicinal herbs co-exist with high-tech beauty salons for wedding couples and secular marriage palaces. Using film much like a canvas, Ottinger creates a modern fairytale flush with mythological heroes, traditional rites, ancestral symbolism, dreams of eternal love, and a whole lot of Western kitsch. One of her most acclaimed documentaries, it captures the amazing phenomenon of new mega-cities and their contradictory societies caught in a balancing act.


  • Berlin International Film Festival
  • Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
  • Dubai International Film Festival
  • International Women's Festival, Seoul
  • World Film Festival Bangkok
  • REDCAT, Los Angeles
  • Harvard Film Archive
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

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    "***1/2 stars…a visually lovely, amusing and ultimately informative glimpse into South Korean culture. Highly recommended."
    Video Librarian

    "Ulrike Ottinger in top artistic form. . . . a film that echoes the beauty, precision and care of the rituals she examines."
    Betsy Sharkey
    Los Angeles Times

    “A visually striking film... Ottinger’s fascinating documentary portrait of wedding customs in contemporary Seoul carefully locates the contemporary wedding industry at the very heart of the intersection of tradition and modernity in Korean culture."
    Harvard Film Archives

    "Near the beginning . . . we are treated to an explanation by a wedding chest maker of exactly what the chest contains, as she lovingly packs and unpacks it before our amazed eyes. It’s exactly the method of Ottinger’s delicately observed film."
    Hollywood Reporter

    "A provocative mélange of ethnography, stunning tableaux and baroque vignettes. As if in a modernist fairytale, Ottinger explores the ‘well-stocked miracle’ of Korean wedding chests and finds herself in an enchanted maze of a modern Asian metropolis flush with mythological heroes, traditional rites, ancestral symbolism, dreams of eternal love and a whole lot of Western kitsch."
    RedCAT Cinema

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