Crossing the Line
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Mr.Dresnok, living in Pyongyang since 1962, does the narrative himself. He comes across as a convivial, honest, lying, brutal character, you name it, and saddened beyond repair. "You do not like fishing?", a North Korean sitting next to him at the river remarks casually, causing Mr.Dresnok to ever so slightly draw a hasty cigarette drag.
There it is, the truth of a squandered life in an alien country. The Korean angler sensed it.
There is a certain twisted authenticity to him, a bullyish bonhomy that makes him look almost great to have a beer with at a sports bar at one moment, and look sadistic without further advance notice the next, with nothing but just seconds to spare inbetween.
The famous defector foe/friend (it's hard to tell at times) Robert Jenkins, now relocated to Japan, gets an earful from Mr.Dresnok for having spilled some truths. At that moment, Mr.Dresnok's outrage is a staged emotion, given the Party cadre sitting next to him. The documentary seems to not be entirely fair and balanced on this particular subject, although it serves as an interesting "audio et altera pars" to Mr.Jenkins' autobiography.
Mr.Dresnok, though, knows what his former rocky yet close relationship to the re-defected defector Jenkins calls for: some harsh words, that come across as totally insincere. In the end, this unhappy man is a simple soul who turned himself in for life at a moment's whim.
He genuinely loves his likeable grown-up son who has "Richmond, VA Caucasian college student" written all over his face, yet does barely speak English with a pronounced Korean accent and is going to be, of all choices, a North Korean diplomat.Read more ›
However, it becomes clear after about 15 minutes that this isn't your run-of-the-mill "Time" Magazine type of story. Instead, "Crossing the Link" quickly becomes less a documentary about why Dresnok decided to walks across the DMZ into North Korea (thus "crossing the line"), and more a voyeuristic examination on the psychology of alienation and the degree to which people can delude themselves in their search for belonging.
Dresnok's story is an almost perfect recipe on how to psychologically screw up a child so that he remains wounded well into adulthood. His childhood and post-adolescence are an almost non-stop series of devastating abandonment and betrayal from everyone important in his development: parents, relatives, and his first wife. This sort of damage is some heavy dope for a child, so it's no wonder that several times in the film Dresnok stated that his main goal in life was to "run away."
It also explains why his defection to the DPRK - something that was an act of opportunity - ended up being such a good fit for him. It's really no surprise. In North Korea Dresnok finally found the perfect family: one that would not abandon him so long as he never abandons it. And, this desire of belonging and craving a simple life in which permanence and security are guaranteed is repeated consistently throughout the movie.Read more ›
Dresnok is a likable person at times and at other times I sat and wondered just how sad he really is in his life. Still, he seems content and he paints an interesting portrayal of life as a man, a husband and a father to his children in North Korea. When the documentary was over I learned a little bit about North Korea and about an American who found his "peace" in that Stalinist regime.
Professing to be happy and well looked after by the government, even during the decades of food shortages and starvation that took the lives of uncounted North Koreans, Dresnok is an ambiguous presence in the film, though he has plenty of screen time. At the end, you know you have been told a coherent story of a man's life that is surely only partly the truth that it claims to be. Now in his 60s and in poor health, he comes across as sentimental at times, a gas bag at others, and finally capable of the beatings that he's been accused of by another American soldier who recently returned to the West with his own story to tell. The interview with the director sheds some much needed light on the more mysterious aspects of the entire film, but what we are left with at the end are unanswered questions that we're not likely ever to have answers to. Fascinating.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My husband and I really enjoyed this movie. This is your movie if you want a good defector documentary. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Monica B.
“Crossing the Line” is a fascinating, tragic and somewhat disturbing documentary about James Joseph Dresnok, a US soldier who defected to North Korea in 1962. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ashtar Command
I won't read, much less buy this book. This man deserted me and my brother soldiers. he is a traitor. Read morePublished 5 months ago by c david benbow
Every American should see this film. As you watch, realize that this GI being interviewed is not really at liberty to speak his mind. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Kahina
Made in response to the memoirs written by another Army defector to North Korea, Charles Jenkins, Dresnok is the last remaining American defector still living in North Korea. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Will o' the Wisp
Sadly, DPRK is the right fit for the subject of this film. He wanted a simple life, and that's exactly what he got. Read morePublished 19 months ago by R. Kolin