The Berlinale Generation entry Short Vacation tells the story of four young girls participating in the same photography club at school. Their summer assignment is to take pictures of “the end of the world” – with disposable cameras, not their cellphones. The term is so abstract to them, after some deliberation, they decide to travel to the last stop of Seoul metropolitan subway line 1. This is where their cosmos ends, so surely the earth must come to an end here?

Directors Kwon Min-pyo and Seo Hansol manage to capture the fugacious moment in time when friendships are formed easily and without ulterior motives. The very notion of the world ending as a matter of space (and not time) speaks not only to the innocence of the characters but to that of the entire approach to this film.

The pictures the kids take on their trip are spliced into the montage. On occasion the images are underexposed, askew or a finger made its way into the frame. All these imperfections add to the charm of these snapshots and the work as a whole. Short Vacation paints a nostalgic picture of spontaneity, curiosity and of summer days that only the young seem to be able to savour to the fullest extent.

The premise of a quartet of friends setting out on a quest, only to find that the journey is the destination, is clearly reminiscent of coming-of-age dramas like Stand by Me. Yet instead of a concise script, this Korean-debut feature allows for the girls’ conversations to wander. Paired with the unimposing cinematography, which frequently has the camera set at a fixed point and lets the action unfold before it, this gives the actors the necessary freedom to express themselves.

Short Vacation proves that children today are still capable of experiencing adventures. Having a smartphone just means they can occasionally consult Google Maps on where to go.

★★★★★

Selina Sondermann

Short Vacation (Jong chak yeok) does not have a UK release date set.

For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.

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