Korean director Kim Ki-Duk's fourth feature is hardly a typical boy-meets-girl love story; between the strong sadomasochistic elements and the scene that reportedly caused fainting at a press screening, it's marked by a troubling cruelty. It's also a beautifully shot, oddly poetic film that makes excellent use of its unusual location: an enclave of pastel-colored floating fishing cabins, anchored around a picturesque lake. It's the perfect spot for vacationing men looking to do a little fishing or simply get away from their families, and the one-room huts are maintained by pretty, apparently mute Hee-Jin (Suh Jung), who uses her rowboat to ferry guests, supplies and, occasionally, prostitutes, to and from the cabins. At night, she offers her guests coffee and, if they're willing to pay, herself. In addition to the good fishing, the floats are excellent hideouts for anyone looking to disappear for a while, and one afternoon, Hyun-Shik (Kim Yoo-Suk) arrives at the camp with a bag, a birdcage and a gun he plans to use on himself. Hyun-Shik is on the run from the police and his own conscience; after catching his wife and her lover in bed together, he murdered them both. Intrigued by her new guest, Hee-Jin watches Hyun-Shik from the shore, and when she sees he's about to shoot himself, Hee-Jin swims under his cabin and pricks his thigh with an awl. Startled, he drops the gun into the lake. Hee-Jin and Hyun-Shik begin a tentative, wordless flirtation, but when they finally get around to making love, Hyun-Shik suddenly gets rough and Hee-Jin has to fight him off. Frustrated, he hires a hooker (Park Sung-Hee); jealous, she retaliates with a ploy that ends in the young woman's death. As the unusual relationship between Hee-Jin and Hyun-Shik intensifies, the fishing metaphor that runs throughout the film becomes revoltingly literal. There are two particularly nasty scenes involving fish hooks, but the real cruelty is inflicted on various animals that had the misfortune to appear in this film. A number of fish, one frog and Hyun-Shik's poor bird are badly mistreated, and unlike the human-oriented business with the hooks, nothing appears to have been faked. The film nevertheless exerts a strange sort of power that makes for compelling viewing, even as its images force one to repeatedly look away.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: Korean director Kim Ki-Duk's fourth feature is hardly a typical boy-meets-girl love story; between the strong sadomasochistic elements and the scene that reportedly caused fainting at a press screening, it's marked by a troubling cruelty. It's also a beaut… (more)