Probably the best program addition at last yearís Venice International Film Festival in September was the surprise inclusion of Kim ki Dukís 3 Iron
among the lineup of the official competition, the 22nd film. After some disappointing work that held promise but failed to move the audience, came a film that moved almost everyone, as the jubilant applause and whistles indicated!†
is the story of Tae-suk, a homeless young man in South Korea whose source of livelihood is breaking into the homes and apartments of people away on holiday or indefinitely out of town, living in their beds, eating their food, and as a nice gesture when he leaves, doing their laundry or fixing appliances. One day he sneaks into a home which is actually inhabited by a former model and the victim of spousal abuse - Sun hwa decides to enter his life of crime and leave her husband. To teach her him a lesson, Tae-suk later pounds her husband with a 3- iron golf club, which golf lovers will know is the least used club in a golf bag. The ritualistic search for empty houses begin, and each new occupancy brings details that are routinely challenging for the young couple. All goes well until they inhabit the house of a dead man and Tae suk is blamed for his murder. During his time in jail he is beaten and gradually takes on the persona of a ghost who can move faster than the human eye. †
The story at first may seem simple but the contemplative speed of the film is fascinating though there must be a disclaimer that some people may find the pace demanding. But director Kim ki duk leaves enough directions to follow the solid and captivating maze of events and in the end there is a wonderful alchemy that mesmerizes. Plus there are only two lines of dialogue in the whole film. Iíll leave that to you to discover. The film has a spiritual message and a surprise ending that leaves spectators wondering exactly what happened. †
The two main actors in the film are among South Koreaís most successful box office stars: Lee Seung-yun and Jae Hee. At the press conference in Venice Kim ki duk reported that the film was actually written in a month and shot in a little over two weeks. When he was asked about the choice of actress Lee Seung-un who had caused a minor scandal by publishing the photographs of women who were forced to become comfort women, prostitutes for the Japanese that occupied Korea during WWII, the director dismissed the question as having nothing to do with the film. Whether or not this distressing detail managed to detract a little from the spiritual dimension of the film is debatable. But then, thatís show business and actors can not always live up to the themes of their films.
Director Kim Ki duk says that we are all empty houses waiting for someone to open the lock and set us free. This simple statement about the film explains its potent power and why the film is so attractive. We never learn much about the characters through dialogue to be sure, but are faced with collecting information through images and as such making sense of them through assembling them into a story- our story. Kim ki duk gives us the raw material, artfully arranged, the rest is a wonderful cinematic journey. †
For Movie Magazine International this is Moira Sullivan, Venice Italy.
© 2005 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 5/2005
South Korea/Japan - 2004