Sunday, January 6, 2008
"Do you need a new life?" That's a slogan displayed at a plastic surgery clinic in Korean director Kim Ki-duk's (金基德) thirteenth film "Time" ("시간," South Korea 2006, 97 min.). This film indeed has a new life compared to Kim's earlier films, but it is just as engaging and philosophical as others.
See-hee is obsessively in love with Ji-woo after they have dated for years. However, she thinks that Ji-woo is getting tired of her. She decides to do something drastic to stay on top of the game — one day, she disappears suddenly and walks into a plastic surgery clinic to get a new life. She meets Ji-woo again as Seh-hee, at a cafe called "Room and Rumor," where most the scenes are set besides a beautiful sculpture park on the beach. Will the new life in Seh-hee given by the plastic surgeon keep Ji-woo's heart? If you have seen Kim's films, you would know that this is a question that can only be answered by his story.
I love many Kim's films because of his engrossing storytelling style. The plot almost always develops unpredicted, for better or worse. In many of his films, he tells his stories with fantastic visuals, with little dialogues or none at all from protagonists. For example, Jung Suh in "The Isle (섬)," Tae-suk in "3-Iron (빈집)" (who appears on Ji-woo's computer screen many times), and the young girl in "The Bow (활)" never speak one word during the entire film. However, "Time (시간)" has a lot dialogues and conversations for a change, without lacking of its rich visuals.
Water is such an important element in Kim's film. In "The Isle (섬)" and "The Bow (활)," everything happens on water. In this film, a fascinating sculpture park on a beach becomes an essential part of the story. Ji-woo and his girlfriend (which one?) always hang out on those sculptures. Many of these sculptures, works by Lee Il-ho (이일호) about love making and relationships, represent a sharp contrasts to the love struggles among the protagonists.
Although I am thoroughly captivated by this film, I think some scenes in the film should have been less sloppy. I am appalled that somebody can walk straight into a plastic surgeon's operating room from the streets when the surgeon is cutting up somebody's face. If I needed a new life, not that I do, I certainly would avoid that surgeon at all cost, especially because he treats a patient like See-hee.
Now I know where I want to visit next — the sculpture park on the beach where Ji-woo and See-hee frequently visited. Who knows? I might meet one of them, perhaps with a new face, or a new life.