Saturday, September 10, 2005

3 Iron

3 Iron is a film by Kim Ki-Duk, the Korean auteur behind The Isle, and the annoyingly titled Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring. Both of those films were really interesting, challenging films. Kim's films are notable for their minimal use of dialogue. The Isle's main character is a mute, and in Spring, there is very little dialogue.

3 Iron raises the bar, showing us a love story where the main characters never speak to each other, and one of them never speaks at all. This is the sort of thing that could be gimmicky, and at times seems a bit constraining, but when the two main characters are together, it's achingly beautiful. Tae-Suk is quite similar to a bunch of Wong Kar-Wai characters, in the way that he inhabits other people's houses as sort of a vacation for himself. If he had a voiceover going over the action, he would be pretty close to the mute in Fallen Angels.

However, Kim is much more interested in minimalism, his shots don't call attention to themselves, and he almost never uses non-source music. In this sense, his goal is to immerse the viewer in the world of the film, not using any techniques that could puncture that illusion. Much like Hard Eight, this film is more about creating an atmosphere, a feeling, than anything else. When Sun and Tae-Suk are together, there's a feeling of safety, and it's wonderful to watch them figure out the boundaries of their relationship in the first scene, as he takes care of her, and she opens up to him.

Being a Kim Ki-Duk film, there are some scenes of violence, though nothing approaching the extremes of The Isle. The scene in which Tae-suk fires golf balls at the abusive husband is almost cathartic because of the silent approval Sun gives to teh action. The scene in which Tae-suk's golfball ends up causing a car crash is more troubling. By this point, I was fully behind the characters and their relationship, to the point that I could think only of the potentially negative consequences this would have for them, rather than about the person who is dead in the car.

I love the way Tae-suk seems to speak through music, the songs he plays providing the only expressive sound during the middle section of the film. The songs themselves were great, but they also functioned well to establish the atmosphere of safety and love that exists between the two characters. It brought me back to the similar scene in Irreversible, where Alex and Marcus lounge around their apartment with a song playing in the background that creates this feeling of utter bliss.

But, the world soon intrudes upon Tae-Suk and Sun's relationship, and this is quite jarring. The very act of speaking seems cold and unreal compared to the wordless passion of our two main characters. The prison scenes are probably the best example of this.

From there, the film splits off in two directions. I found Tae-Suk's prison scenes very interesting. Throughout the film, he's trying to stay below society's radar, and just move from house to house without being noticed. Now, he seeks to become essentially invisible, and through that process once again be able to go back with Sun to the life they once had, and avoid the problems that the world creates. The use of perspective shooting here was phenomenal, building the idea of Tae-suk as an almost superhuman force.

Then at the same time, we see Sun's utter despair, only to witness her reborn when Tae-suk finally does appear. At the end, she speaks, and though her husband thinks she's talking to him, now it seems that words have become her way of communicating with Tae-suk, without her husband knowing. Some of the moments here were just heartbreakingly beautiful, most notably the shot of Sun kissing Tae-suk, even as she is being hugged by her husband. This is a perfect visual representation of the way that she has found a way to hide him within her everyday life. It's such a good image, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Kim started with that image and the rest of the project grew out of it.

Then there's the ending of the movie, which like The Isle, gives us an ambiguous image, one that we need to apply our own meaning to. The shot before the last, where Sun is backing into Tae-suk, searching for him, and eventually finding him when they reach the wall, is another phenomenal one.

Then the closing leaves us a bit unclear. We see her messing with the scale earlier in the film, but that wouldn't explain why their weight comes to zero, and then the closing quote sets up a basic choice, with its words about the ambiguity of reality and dreams. The question is did he ever really come back, or is this all just in her head? Both make sense, and I'd actually lean more towards the dream explanation.

It seems to me that this man represents to her the freedom she can't have, so by imagining herself living a life wth him, behind her husband's back, it provides an escape that keeps her happy. She loses herself in these daydreams and memories, this one great experience making her happy enough to open up to her husband again.

But, I don't think you really need an answer for the ending, regardless of whether it's real or not, it tells us how the experience she's gone through during the film has changed her, and standing on the scale at the end, she's not weighed down by her problems, she's able to transcend them.

I think this is Kim's best film, largely because it's the most emotionally involving. You really care about these people, in a way you never did for the characters in Spring or The Isle. And from a filmmaking standpoint, the control of the frame and storytelling here is incredible. Kim is able to make you feel exactly what he wants you to feel and that's quite an accomplishment.

So, I loved this, and now I'm on the look out for more Kim, perhaps Bad Boy and Samaritan Girl will be my next DVD pickups.


buy generic viagra said...

She struggled too much to make a good film, but sinceresly the film was a disaster. The dialogues were terrible and the starring didn't help pretty much. I don't wanna be rude but that's the true.

Anonymous said...

What dialogue..

You trolling?

স প্ত র্ষি said...

I liked, felt not only every line but even the punctuation of your prose as I also liked the movie, loved the movie, admired the movie ...

Stefan said...

One of the best Asian movies ever made!

Nishant Gupta said...

Ok as you said if its a dream by a women who is imagining that the guy is with her , then what does that scene depicts when he actually hit the police office using golf ball. Based on that we can say he really mastered the shadowing skills and also he stole that painting from the house in the end. If you go by the concept that it was all in the mind of that women and that guy didn't actually show up in her house then the scenes such as hitting the police office with golf ball and breaking in without getting noticed doesn't make sense. I really like to believe that it was real and he was actually present in the house.