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Jong-du, a young man just out of prison for manslaughter, is a social misfit: fidgety, snuffling, laughing inappropriately, without a super ego. When released, he calls on the family of the victim; they send him away, but not before he has seen Gong-ju, a young woman disabled severely by cerebral palsy. Both are abused by their families, and both are used by them as well. Although their relationship begins with Jong-du's criminal behavior, a friendship develops. They talk of favorite things; he washes her hair; they go out; in late night phone calls, he helps her past her fears of the dark. Is there a place in the world for these two inarticulate people? Written by
An amazing human story - insightfully illustrating how 'wrong' our points of view can be as we take things for granted, going about our daily lives, assuming we are (always) right. Truly an eye-opening film
I rated "Oasis" as a MUST SEE. Yes, it may be difficult to watch all those cerebral palsy twitching scenes, but focusing on the heart of the story, you shall appreciate as the story unfolds. It's an intriguing human drama needed to be told - to rouse the malaise and complacency of society. We are so prone to being judgmental of others, taking things for granted - we are actually quite full of it ourselves, thinking we are 'normal' while others - those who seem to us acting not to the 'norm' we see or feel, are labeled as 'queers' or 'misfits'. We can be so callous and literally 'blind' - not taking the time to pause, step back and see beyond the faces or empathize the possible feelings or needs liken to ourselves.
Korean writer-director Lee Chang-dong's insightful film "Oasis" (2002), sensitively and sensibly gave us a chance to see the true state of being and what's possible between two persons that are socially shunned and dismissed as 'non-entity' to the everyday world we live in. Yet to Sol Kyung-gu's Jong-du (the "General") and Moon So-ri's Gong-ju (the "Princess" Your Highness), they created a world that they mutually shared - alone and together, unbeknownst to the community outside of their energized circle. The two of them are self-sufficient, contented within, appreciating every minute of being alive, gently nurturing and genuinely enjoying each other's company.
The two main actors delivered poignant performances of their characters. The writing by director Lee essentially facilitated the core drama. Actress Moon's portrayal of her character is astounding - brings to mind Daniel Day-Lewis' gut-wrenching performance in Jim Sheridan's "My Left Foot" (1989). Director Lee cleverly introduced segments where we see Moon's Gong-ju standing up, dancing around, singing and smiling in a non-spastic state. Such imagination is at once endearing and poetic, allowing us relief and pauses to entertain such thoughts along with her. Sol is just as amazing
beguilingly effortless in his portrayal of a simple-minded man (childlike
if you will) yet entangled complexity reveals as family 'secrets' are picked up through the translations (thanks to subtitles by Tony Rayns - certainly provided clues to verbal interactions and plot progression). One wonders if Jong-du's three prior charges were somehow family 'endowed', conveniently using him since he doesn't care much one way or the other. Simple-minded he may be, uncomplicated by guilt, he is basically a kind-hearted and caring person. Subtle and simplistic, it takes talent and restraint to deliver this character, and Sol brilliantly complements Moon's Gong-ju. An unnerving powerful pairing.
There are sprinkled humor and we would smile and be just as delighted as the two of them. We get to see more clearly than the other people in the story: family members, neighbors, restaurant owners/customers, policemen/detectives. We feel the frustration when Gong-ju tried to express her side of the story - conveniently dismissed as part of her twitching agony. We worry for Jong-du when he doesn't speak up - then again who in the society's mind would believe a 'misfit'. We felt the helplessness - yet Lee ingeniously provided a logical and satisfying plot turn, even if it takes yielding to imagination - but why ever not (it could very well be providential). Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from the two lovebirds: they are simple and content with themselves (without 'guilt' complex), gutsy and confident in their own way of communicating to each other (with exclusive personal word references) and clarity of purpose in the deeds they do (be it turning up the radio or being high up on a tree). They are happy in spite of what happens - knowing each would continue on with bright hopes and tender loving for each other in their hearts.
This is a worthwhile film embracing humanity. Life's too short to expend energy on being angry at others. It's human to make mistakes. If we gripe less and focus on the positive, reciprocate respect and kindness to each other, take the time to appreciate this world we live in - 'oases' we'd be in.
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