Perverse, politically incorrect 'romance'
OPENS JULY 11, CERT 18, 102 MINS
You know you’re in twisted territory when a film’s key scene of tenderness consists of a brutalised college girl vomiting over the mute thug who forced her into prostitution. It’s at this point that controversial South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk’s film transforms itself from a grim drama into a sort-of love story, albeit one with the sort of sexual politics that may turn many viewers off.
Kim’s regular star Cho Jae-Hyun plays Han-Gi, a brooding hulk whose violent advances towards prim Sun-Hwa (Seo Won) are understandably rebuffed. He takes revenge by putting her to work in a seedy brothel, watching from behind a one-way mirror when she’s with clients.
Growing more obsessed, Han-Gi becomes Sun-Hwa’s protector and lover. What sounds like squalid male fantasy on paper is more complex on screen, where investigations of societal pressures and divides are folded into an increasingly dream-like narrative. The film’s confrontational title and unappetising surface represent a challenge, forcing viewers to dig deeper to uncover Kim’s true?if still enigmaticintent. Hard work then, but richly rewarding.