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On a fishing boat at sea, a 60-year old man has been raising a girl since she was a baby. It is agreed that they will get married on her 17th birthday, and she is 16 now. They live a quiet and secluded life, renting the boat to day fishermen and practicing strange divination rites. Their life changes when a teenage student comes aboard...
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Mute Hee-Jin is working as a clerk in a fishing resort in the Korean wilderness; selling baits, food and occasionally her body to the fishing tourists. One day she falls in love to Hyun-Shik, who is on the run for the police and rescues him with a fish hook, when he tries to commit suicide. Written by
Moritz Muehlenhoff <email@example.com>
Challenges the audience to work for their reward, but pays off if you make it
Another movie that has attained a little notoriety from the number of walk-outs at festival screenings, and even a couple of audience members passing out. Whilst it is not hard to see why, it is a shame that is what the film is known for, as there is much more to it than *those* scenes. A mute girl makes a living running a kind of retreat, where men can rent a floating cabin on a lake in the mountains and spend their days fishing, and their nights sleeping with prostitutes. The mute girl makes ends meet by taking on this role as well. A young man arrives and rents a cabin, clearly not their for the fish. We see that he is tortured and suicidal - you wouldn't guess why from the 5 second flashback that is meant to explain it, but the 'filmography' section of the DVD explains it in more detail. The mute girl is drawn to the man's desperation, perhaps feeling sympathy/protectiveness, or perhaps simply relating to another deeply unhappy soul.
The relationship between these two characters, and several other characters that come to the lake for one reason or another, is the main focus of the film. The difficulty some people have with relationships is the topic being studied, particularly when they are not happy in their relationship with themselves. The inner feelings of the characters receive expression in scenes whose 'shock factor' has drawn inevitable comparisons with Takashi Miike, especially AUDITION. Director Kim Ki Duk doesn't seem to mind these comparisons:
"KK: I saw Audition at Toronto and that movie made me realize that there is someone else out there like me. We are two of a kind"
If you couldn't sit through the last half hour of AUDITION, you'll probably want to give THE ISLE a miss too. It's also definitely not a film for animal lovers... there is absolutely zero chance of the film being released intact in the UK or the US, as the treatment of the animals in the film (mainly fish) is far outside what is permissible in either country's regulations.
But there is much more to THE ISLE than the scenes that make keeping your eyes on screen a challenge. In between, the film is absolutely ravishing, and will keep your eyes glued there. The setting of the lake, mostly bathed in deep fog, and the fantastic wordless performance from actress Jung Suh (and the rest of the cast) are beautiful and powerful. The loneliness and sadness of the characters is reflected brilliantly in the total isolation of the floating cabins. There is a deep message in the film, and it is presented to us beautifully.
Like Miike, Kim Ki-Duk makes us work for our reward when we watch THE ISLE... if you want to take away the beauty of his film, you have to be willing to pay the price of the horror. Thoroughly recommended!
One note: the film is another one of those great films that just doesn't know how to end itself. Actually, we get the perfect ending... a nice long shot and a fade to white and it should have been over, but
apparently Kim Ki Duk wasn't quite satisfied to leave it at that and tacks on two extra scenes, about a minute of footage, that are simply inexplicable and serve only to confuse and spoil the mood. My recommendation... when it fades to white, simply stop the DVD
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