Kim Ki-Duk’s movies, which are mainly disturbing by nature, are always appreciated by a small group of film fans. I was thrilled when his latest film entitled Moebius was finally screened at the UK’s cinemas.
The title itself stirred up a lot of controversy in the director’s native Korea. It took 3 long meetings with the Korea Media Rating Board (KMRB) before Moebius obtained the right classification, allowing regular distribution. At first the film received the most restrictive category, which in practice; meant that there was no possibility of any distribution in Korea because there are no cinemas in the country which are suitable to show the film. The commission’s main objection was the sexual scenes, which contained references to incest. Kim Ki-Duk agreed to cut 1 minute and 40 seconds of the film and then he cut an additional 50 seconds. However, before returning to the KMRB, the director organized a special screening at the Korean Film Council where he invited 109 film journalists. Guests, according to their own assessment, had to vote on whether Moebius should be released for distribution or not. 87% voted positively. After the third visit to the KMRB the film eventually gained the rights for distribution but with the highest age restriction: “Over 18”.
Moebius begins with short film sequences in which the director slowly introduces us to the protagonists of the tragedy. Its culmination is a physical struggle between a husband (Cho Jae-Hyun) and a wife (Lee Eun-Woo) caused by a phone call from the man’s mistress. The couple’s son (Seo Young-Joo), who witnesses the tension between the adults, doesn’t seem to understand what the cause of the quarrel is. Kim Ki-Duk had no intention of hiding anything. We all get to know, relatively quickly, who the father’s lover is when the son strolls through the streets and accidentally sees the couple. The story evolves quite quickly after that. The boy follows his father and ends up observing the pair’s intercourse in a car. The mother watches the husband’s unfaithfulness as well but from a different place. Upon returning to the house, the frustrated woman tries to chop off the husband’s genitals in the name of revenge. Unsuccessful in her crime she turns against her son, who she mutilates badly. The boy becomes a local sensation and a laughing stock among colleagues who humiliate him whenever they get the chance to do so. From this point the real drama of the dysfunctional family begins. This kind of introduction to the film, as well an interesting story development, heralds a good film for sure. It seems like everyone has their own role to play in the film. I can’t deny Kim Ki-Duk’s originality.
Moebius has no dialogue, which in contemporary cinema is considerably rare. This proves that Kim Ki-Duk’s craftsmanship is great. I watched his film with bated breath. The silence, simplicity and modesty of the film coincide with what the director tried to show within the layer of a fictional story. Actors deprived of speech had to look for expressions elsewhere, which added a stranger and idyllic flavour to the film. The fight, sex or casual chatting scenes without dialogue told the audience much more than those in normal mainstream films. According to the old saying “Speech is silver, silence is gold”. Moebius, in this case, overflows with gold.
I was absolutely mesmerized by Seo Young-Joo’s performance. At the age of 16 he delivered very well considering it was his first non-dialogue movie. In one of the interviews Seo Young-Joo’s said “Although it was a bit difficult to act the role without a dialogue in Moebius, Kim Ki-Duk and other actors guided me well”. I think Kim Ki-Duk has got himself a new talent. I have to admit that I was affected by his emotional acting. It is worth mentioning that Seo has already showed off his talents in Juvenile Offender in 2011, for which he received an award at the 25th Tokyo International Film Festival. Lee Eun-Woo’s portrayal of the mother, enraged with jealousy over her husband’s affair, was electrifying. Her facial expressions and body language were as if she was a puppet guided by the director, it was an unforgettable performance. Obviously I cannot forget about Cho Jae-Hyun, who had already appeared in Kim Ki-Duk’s films such as Crocodile, The Isle and Bad Guy, for which he received rave reviews from the critics. It wasn’t any different this time either. His acting was sublime, it really blew my mind. Moebius was traumatizing, shocking and twisted but a great film if you look at it from the art cinema’s point of view. The movie certainly will not appeal to everyone, the audience might even think it’s repugnant, nevertheless, to me it was another great project from Kim Ki-Duk. I became infatuated with the film and Kim Ki-Duk’s work so effectively that I decided to see Bad Guy and The Isle again.
Andrew Chan of the Film Critics Circle of Australia wrote “To call Moebius daring is actually an understatement, as it is more than that, it is a film that will haunt you, lingers with you and perhaps disturb you till you never think about it again”. I couldn’t agreed more with Mr Chan.
Picture courtesy of the artist (Seo Young-Joo, Lee Eun-Woo and Kim Ki- Duk)
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by: Liz Evans
Pictures courtesy of the film production company.