As I thumbed through the Book one day, I noticed that some countries weren’t very well represented, except for a few standout examples. One such country is South Korea, which, aside from the modern era of movies, is practically nonexistent. I did find three solid examples of South Korean films in the last decade, though, so I decided to mash them together in a South Korea-a-thon. First up is a film by Kim Ki-duk called 3-Iron, or Bin-Jip (which, literally translated, means Empty House).
The film follows a young man who has an unusual lifestyle; he lives in other people’s homes while they’re away, without their knowledge. He justifies breaking into the homes and apartments by doing odd jobs while he’s there like the laundry or fixing appliances, until one day, he is caught in a house by a bruised and beaten housewife, who after connecting with the young man, decides to leave her abusive husband and accompany the young man in his travels. It’s quite the premise, and it is made even more memorable by the presentation of the film. Most of the whole film is from the perspectives of the two leads, the young man and his newfound partner, who never so much as speak throughout the whole film until the very end(all the dialogue comes from the other characters), leaving subtext and non-verbal communication to come across. It makes the film have a rather magical quality about it, which was completely Ki-duk’s intention (as evident by the text at the end of the film); the interludes of reoccurring music aid this along nicely as well, and add a melodramatic flavor to the proceedings. This film probably wouldn’t have been half of what it was without all the players involved, from the actors who know how to hit their pitches perfectly, to the director, who has one heck of a vision and a method to tell his story, to the crew, who execute the director’s vision superbly. This must’ve been a hard film to pull off, and sell, but it’s easy to tell the end result was ultimately worth it.
The second half of the film is almost a different story, like you’re eating an orange and, two-thirds of the way through, you realize the other half you’ve been eating is an apple. It was absolutely fascinating to watch, for multiple reasons, and it even got a bit humorous at times; once you get into the second half, you’ll know what I mean. This was a finely done romance story that never takes the traditional route toward romance; heck, the whole film is an ode to non-traditional storytelling, and it was a complete breath of fresh air. This is a good, solid recommendation from me, as long as you’re not a subtitle snob, but even then, you only have to deal with a few ancillary characters’ dialogue; the main two characters convey their whole story without any spoken words at all, and it was truly beautiful they way they did it. Watch this one, for sure.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10