Kim Ki-Duk’s unflinching examination of the psychology of occupation captures the panicked disassociation of civilians living in the shadow of an army base, as seen through the eyes of three teenagers.
In the 1970's, American military presence was still an everyday reality in South Korea. Although mixed-race Chang-guk (Dong-kun Yang) resents his absentee father, his unstable mother still writes unanswered letters to her Yankee sweetheart. Shunned by villagers, Chang-guk grudgingly works for his mom’s latest lover, a brutal dog-catcher. Nearby, another teenage boy, Jihum (Young-min Kim), feels cowed by his boastful father, a war veteran, who endlessly replays his winning battles. Whereas Chang-guk cannot bring himself to trust others, lonely Jihum pines for embittered Eunok (Min-jung Ban), who has lost the sight in one eye. Shunned as a half-breed, Chang-guk hustles to find less demeaning work; he also begins keeping a watchful eye on his fellow misfits. Unlike these streetwise locals who barter black market goods with the soldiers,
these three teens avoid contact with the foreigners. When two young toughs steal Eunok's beloved puppy, Jihum retrieves it; that kind act breaks through her reserve. This respite from cruelty is short-lived; these same bullies savagely beat up Jihum and rape and impregnate Eunok. Pushed against the wall by the circumstances of his birth, Chang-guk decides to take a stand by avenging Jihum and Eunok. Frustration by his mother's futile pipe dreams, Chang-guk also lashes out at her current boyfriend. Meanwhile, after undergoing an abortion, a more worldly Eunok flirts with an American private, who offers to foot the bills for her eye operation. That good deed carries a high price, while Chang-guk,
Jihum and Eunok have suffered emotional damage that can't be easily fixed.
Kim portrays post-war Korea as one of Dante's circles of Hell, and his shocking images linger in the memory. As his trio of vulnerable characters cross paths, their individual cries merge into a collective howl of anguish.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: R
- Review: Kim Ki-Duk’s unflinching examination of the psychology of occupation captures the panicked disassociation of civilians living in the shadow of an army base, as seen through the eyes of three teenagers. In the 1970's, American military presence was still… (more)