A Korean film by South Korean Kim Ki-Duk, director of: The Isle, The Bow, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... And Spring.
The guy is apparently noted for his "art-house" cinematic works, of which the ones I've seen, have been of that category. He's also got in trouble for animal cruelty. This is what made this film really out of place comparing his other works...
Why did I buy this film?
- I really liked Spring, Summer... Sort of semi-Philosophical Buddhist yet modern day story... Shot in this beautiful lake scene (think it was fake though).. but the cinematography was incredible I thought
- I liked The Bow. Was a film of very little dialoge as well. About some girl and old man on a boat in the ocean. Girl lived with him and basically did all her life. Guess what happens? Not in a violent manner though.
- It was £3brand new
...Considering the director. Stupid, because things just didn't add up. It wasn't at all clear if it was supposed to be that way, or if the director wanted to portray insanity, humour, absurdity... He just didn't do either consistently. Nothing in it was funny, either. Not even from a black humour perspective. Yeah, there's gore. But it's not over-the-top like we're used to with western cinema. I hate that anyway.
The spoilers here aren't really worth avoiding since the back of the DVD box tells you this much anyway.
A platoon/squad is guarding the coast on the North/South Korean border (post-war, figured out the year it was based in - 2002). Figured they weren't doing their military service (think they have to at 18 or something for 2 years?) since they were older. Couple guys from the squad end up geting some stick from some a group of young adults/teenagers in the nearby town.
This coast -- as all 3 are, apparently -- is off limits to the public. Anyone that's seen on the coast will be shot at as if they were a N.Korean spy. To kill a spy is a huge honour etc; you do so, you get rewarded. One guy is really up for it, really dedicated. Guys that gave them stick from earlier get drunk, girlfriend goes out there with her boyfriend, gets shot to pieces and grenaded. Basically this guy who really wanted to kill a spy, "Kang", got angry at these punks earlier and dared them. He was just doing his duty (no sarcasm), and then a load of friend/family come round, beat the shit into him, and continue to do so throughout the film. Film loses realism round here (where the hell is the security?), yet the director seems to ignore that fact.
Kang goes mental. Girlfriend goes mental. They keep wandering back into the base. Constantly. Neither on them gets arrested. The film was actually pretty good up until this started happening. Girlfriend thinks she's in love with all the guys, shags them all, Kang comes back and punches people and acts insane, constantly coming back.. Finally arrested.. Casually runs away.. Comes back and shoots them up.. Then goes to Seoul (capital of S.Korea) and bayonets people. By the way, this was directed like it was meant to be taken seriously. Nothing that you could laugh at or think, "oh so this is where it's coming from.."
Was reading IMDb reviews saw this guy that's saying what I was semi-laughing about: "the crowd, instead of dispersing and running for cover, just formed a tight circle around him, as if the fact that he'd already bayonetted one of them didn't seem to pose any danger for them at all" (happens at the end)
We've all seen these kind of mock slapstick movies before looking at the brutality of the army, how fucked up they are, etc.. But this somehow managed to stay serious throughout, and isn't like that at all. It reminds me of Full Metal Jacket if I convince myself it's trying to show the absurdity of military activity. What didn't help was that it wasn't set during a war though...
Film really did stretch the viewer's credulity so you just end up questioning things because they're all done in a serious manner. Maybe that's what the director wants: for you to question what's going on, but then realise you're not even in the position to speculate anything.
Totally different from the other films of his I've seen. It's not a boring film, it doesn't totally make sense, it did annoy me. It did win some awards.
FIPRESCI Prize: Kim Ki-duk, "For the strong and innovative depiction of insanity."
Well, this film was insane.