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#Alive: A Movie Analysis Using Freytag's Pyramid



#Alive is another-typical-zombie-apocalypse film.


I wrote this movie review last September 13, 2020. To date, it has been more than six months that we are all experiencing the wrath of COVID-19 here in Manila. So once you see this movie in Netflix, you will probably click Play because the film’s theme is comparable to COVID.


Like the Corona outbreak where social distancing and quarantining are the initial recommendations, #Alive showed a virus that wildly spread due to tight space among the apartment areas in the Metropolis of Korea.


Hence, if you’re a Korean movie fan, you may click and watch this. Also, if you’re into suspense, this might somehow hook you. Or pretty much, if you’re bored being stuck at home due to this pandemic, this might kill your time. Although, there is nothing mind-blowing in this film except that once or twice your heart will get a scare for a second or two. Other than that, none anymore.


The character development was unimpressively conventional. Two teenagers who seem highly emotional and illogical eventually became mature and strategic to fight for their lives. Additionally, the virus-infected locals turned into a seemingly cannibal or zombie, which we all had seen in many movies. If that’s so, could this be any better than the famous and much loved “Train to Busan”?


Further, foregrounding and foreshadowing styles in the movie were pretty easy to predict. For example, the exposure of the drone happened twice before its final crash. The first time, when the lead star, Jun-u, used it to see what was happening outside his condo unit; the second instance was when he used it as a device to bring the other end of the rope to Yu-bin. From these two scenes, effortlessly, you can anticipate that Jun-u will eventually use that to either distract the zombie from climbing up to Yu-bin’s unit or getting Yu-bin’s senses back.


The throwing of the ball with a rope tied around it and leaving it on the ground was another easy to predict scene. It was like a fish bait that a fish will be lured any moment, in this case, a zombie. True enough, after a few seconds, a zombie fireman saw it and used it to get to Yu-bin’s unit.


Suffice to say, the plot was too simple, which is pretty ironic from all the Korean movies that I watched.


However, from this simple plot, the consistency of the storyline was its strength. The two main characters' wobbling emotions and the scientific basis of people infected by its virus (the often times termed "zombie") were well executed.


If the immaturities of Jun-u and Yu-bin vexed you, hold your horses because they were playing their roles expected in a flash fiction film. They were assimilating their roles in the MICE (Milieu, Inquiry, Character, Event) quotient element as the writer propitiously showed us their several try-fail cycles.


Then, if you questioned the discordant reactions of the zombies from time to time, remember that we also heard a lot of irreconcilable findings and suggestions from the health authorities during this pandemic. So we really can’t consider the zombies’ quirky reactions a loophole in the film.


Now, you might still be convinced that there is nothing extraordinary about the film. But the writer might want us to look at the bigger picture. This film may resonate a vital lesson in our lives.

Symbolically speaking, are you like the cannibal (zombie) who heartlessly and greedily take every opportunity to satisfy your wants? Or, are you the survivor who is constantly in the battle between fighting for your own life and wanting to end it? Or, are you both?

Yes, this zombie apocalypse film represents a social dilemma.

As this film may represent our lives, film degree students or novice filmmakers may simultaneously learn how to execute a five-act structure film (aka Freytag’s Pyramid).


1. Exposition.

MOVIE: When Jun-u was awakened from the alarm clock, everything starts to unfold.


REPRESENTATION: In relation to our lives, the perfect time will come when we will be awakened from our slumber, and we will realize the biggest responsibility we have to take - OURSELVES. It's a nature's flow that all of us will be in a position where we need to adjust, adapt, survive, or grow.


2. Rising Action.

MOVIE: Jun-u tried to survive by watching the news, eating, and finding ways to entertain him (playing video games and drinking his dad's booze). But when the energy supplies such as water, food, and internet connection ran out, loneliness crept in him. Then, the call from his mom almost made him lose his sanity. This was when he became rebellious and careless; he went out of his unit and killed every "zombie" he saw.


REPRESENTATION: In our lives, we also face our challenges and problems. When we do, just like Jun-u, we become emotional, helpless, careless, hopeless – one after the other or all at the same time.

3. Climax.

MOVIE: The appearance of the female lead character, Yu-bin, gave another angle in the film, especially that this happened when Jun-u was at the act of ending his own life. Yu-bin’s use of laser pointer to call the attention of a hanging Jun-u was a good move to introduce Yu-bin’s character – silent yet sharp. In a snap of a finger, Jun-u got back his hope as it appeared that he was not a lone survivor. From this moment, a partnership to survive started to build up.


REPRESENTATION: As the saying goes, no man is an island. This scenario could be similar to many of us. Despite the hardships in life, we always hope for something good because we are blessed with someone we get strength from.

4. Falling Action.

MOVIE: At this stage, another character was introduced - a seemingly alone and mysterious man at the building's eighth floor. Here, the yin and yang of Jun-u and Yu-bin surfaced. Jun-u seemed to trust the man immediately while Yu-bin was a little careful. After a few minutes, Jun-u lost his consciousness and Yu-bin was dragged and locked up to another room as the food of the man’s wife.


REPRESENTATION: The reality is that we cannot trust all people even though they may seem to have a pure intention or are in the same situation as us. Some people may take advantage of us because of their own motives or objectives. Most of the time, these people are our greatest life lessons. As they say, some people come into our life as blessings or as lessons.


5. Denouement

MOVIE: The bird's eye view. From the movie, Jun-u and Yu-bin almost lost hope despite running from and fighting the zombies. When they reached the rooftop, they were finally rescued by the helicopter ride.


REPRESENTATION: Once we’ve passed through all the hurdles, we can gain wisdom from them and look at things from the bird’s eye view. From there, we can say that we are victorious.


Overall, #Alive is a thought-provoking film.


It may pertain to an issue that many people are battling right now - mental health crisis. COVID-19 doesn't just force us to be confined at home. But it also put many people of all ages and across nationality to experience the different effects of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. In The Washington Post article, this was called a “silent killer” and “hidden epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic”.


Withal, this film may also want to stir our primeval norm yet a reality that we are all vulnerable and untrained to face such a pandemic. Implicitly, this film can convey that our education sectors don't equip or prepare us for real life’s battle, which is to survive from the everyday struggles of or challenges in life.


That is what I love with Korean movies; they always speak to me in myriad ways.


What Korean movie do you like?

Please share it with us!



Credit: Movie Poster - Rhythm Zaveri. (2020). Asian Movie Pulse.

Citation: Wan, W. & Long, H. (2020, July 1). ‘Cries for help: Drug overdose are soaring during the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post.

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