To make this film, a Danish journalist named Mads Brügger persuaded two Danish-Korean comedians (one of them a self-described “spastic”) to pose as part of a socialist comedy troupe (the eponymous Red Chapel). Together, they gained entry to North Korea. What they saw there was stranger and sadder than what they expected to find—and a few of the things they filmed give us the best glimpse yet of this super-sealed-off country.
Brügger and the comedians never shake their North Korean minders: brainwashed, deeply creepy functionaries who control their every action. But, of course, the minders themselves are being minded—the country is one big set, and, having entered it, Brügger loses all his control over the events that unfold. The results are fascinating, troubling, and totally unpredictable: Brügger’s North Korean companions grow more sympathetic (or, at least, more human) as the film goes on. Brügger gets a lot less likable. And, ever so incrementally, North Korea loses a little bit of its mystery. (Now in limited release.)
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