Dir. Kim Ki-Duk, South Korea, 2011, 100 mins, in Korean with subtitles
Cast: Kim Ki-Duk
Review by Colin Dibben
An introspective, autobiographical oddity from the director of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring and 3-Iron.
There’s a man living in a tent inside a shack on the outskirts of a small South Korean town. His life is simple and solitary. He shares it with a cat, a camera and a PC screen. The man prepares espressos, eats persimmons, squashes and nuts, and washes his face in rainwater he collects outside. Eventually, he starts to talk to the camera. He is one of South Korea’s most prestigious film directors. His name is Kim Ki-Duk. He’s had a nervous breakdown and now he needs to work some things out.
In 2008, an actress almost died on the set of Kim Ki-Duk’s film Dream. This event triggered serious questions in the director’s mind – and made him feel an immense guilt. This film is his solo dramatization of these questions and that guilt. He talks to his shadow and to a slightly aggressive persona about life, art and actors. It is all very self-absorbed and confessional but much less annoying than you’d expect – partly because there’s something intriguing in watching the man’s daily routine. Kim Ki-Duk is surprisingly mechanically minded: you see him make his own espresso machine. How many film makers can do that? On the other hand, this was the most exciting sequence in the whole film.
If you want fast editing and things blowing up, look elsewhere. Arirang is quiet, reflective and very watchable.