A couple of years ago I got a little bit crazy and bought a lot of DVDs, which I never got around to watching. I think this is probably the case for a lot of people like me. So writing this blog has enabled me to catch up on some films that have sat there gathering dust for a few months.
Kim Ki-Duk is a director I have struggled with. I think the first film of his I was aware of was “The Isle”, which got a lot of notice on the back of the J-Horror boom and some controversy about animal cruelty (some fish being killed). I did not really enjoy the film (although I may revisit it one day), and have found most of what I have seen of his work pretty cold and uninvolving. I do remember enjoying “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring” when it was shown on Film Four, but as a nice mood piece rather than something I would come back to again and again.
So it was with some trepidation that I popped “3-Iron” into the DVD player. However, a rewarding experience was the quite unexpected result.
The story is simple. A Drifter breaks into holiday-makers home, and lives in their houses while they are away. He repays them by cleaning up, making small repairs. The young man is a cipher, living his live through that of others. He then comes across an older abused wife, with whom he makes a bond, and eventually they become lovers. Of course things fall apart, but the journey back from this is the most charming part of all.
Being a Kim Ki-Duk film there are two signature elements here – there is some violence, and there is very little dialogue between the main characters. Actually did I say little dialogue? In the whole film the main two actors say one phrase between them. The film is not totally silent, other characters speak a lot, but it is the amazing way the two leads entrance the viewer with their silent performance that makes this film so special.
This is also a beautiful film. Shot mostly inside, there is always something subtle going on to entrance you.
However, as always with Korean films, there is something of a genre change part way through. The gritty realism gives way to a little fantasy later, as the male lead develops a way of being unseen by others. I am personally fine with this, but it might confuse the more literal–minded observer.
This is a film I would highly recommend, probably one to watch alone rather than with friends. You won’t cry, but you will smile and maybe be inspired.