The Isle

Notorious, long-delayed Korean shocker

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Those who first encountered director Kim Ki-Duk via this year’s serene Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… And Spring are in for a surprise if they’re expecting more of the same. Finally getting a UK release following a run-in with the BBFC that left it lighter by almost two minutes, The Isle both seduces and repels. Set on a lake dotted with floating cabins in which men live, fish and entertain local hookers, the film zeroes in on suicidal artist Hyun-Shik and silent prostitute Hee-Jin. Unconventional by anyone’s standards, their courtship involves self-mutilation with fish hooks, strenuous sex and defecation, some animal torture and a lot of primal screaming. It’s painful stuff for both characters and audience, but Kim dives deep to touch on loneliness, artistic and sexual frustration, societal divides and personal redemption. The film shimmers on the surface-it’s as visually pleasing as Spring, Summer…?but its enigmatic nature and wince-inducing violence is sure to put people off. Get past the fish hooks though, and you’ll find it mesmerising.


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