Middle-class housewife Ae-soon (Moon Yae-bong) is excessively vain and neglectful of her duties as a homemaker. Unable to tolerate her any longer, Ae-soon's husband (Lee Keum-ryong) kicks her out, and she leaves him an...展开d their daughter Jeong-hee (Yoo Sun-ok) to take up with her lover in a hotel. One day, she finds out that her lover is not a wealthy bigshot after all, but a poor lodger and a criminal to boot. She reports him to the police for a robbery he has committed, and decides to go to Busan after handing him over to the authorities. Speeding in order to catch her train, she accidentally runs over her own daughter. Jeong-hee is rushed to the hospital, where she safely regains consciousness, but Ae-soon is wracked with guilt and resorts to suicide.
"The oldest film in existence, and a valuable window into 1930s film grammar, as well as into discourses on New Women and modernity during the Japanese colonial era"
Sweet Dreamwas discovered in China by the Korean Film Archive (KOFA) in 2006. As of 2006, it is the oldest Korean film for which the film stock still remains. Director Yang Ju-nam's first film and the sixth "talking picture" from Kyeong Sung Studio, Sweet Dreamis an invaluable standard for examining the film grammar and technical progress of 1930s cinema. The movie's implausible two-dimensional characters, abrupt plot progression, and awkward camera angles and editing indicate that a stable film grammar had yet to be established at this point. Nonetheless, such devices as the aggressive sound montage, the insert shot of the birdcage, and the shot in which Ae-soon, angry at her husband, unsettles the vanity mirror that shows the reflection of her husband's face demonstrate the director's basic awareness of cinematic forms.
The movie was released sometime after Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's Housedebuted in Japanese-occupied Korea, when debates about "New Women" were particularly rife. As such, it reflects popular attitudes regarding New Women at the time. Ae-soon's unconvincing insistence on buying the most expensive items at a department store and the sudden castigation she is subjected to for the purpose of emphasizing maternal responsibility appear to be forced moves that were introduced into the unfolding narrative in an attempt to reductively portray the controversial New Woman as licentious, vain, and immoral. Other notable features of the film are the inclusion of modern elements such as the scenery of Seoul at the time and a chase scene between a car and a train. The movie also provides an opportunity to glimpse Moon Yae-bong, who was the most popular actress of the Japanese colonial period and the greatest actress in North Korea, during her debut years.