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A sixty and something year old captain has been raising for ten years a girl since she was six in his old fishing vessel that is permanently anchored offshore with the intention of marrying her on her seventeenth birthday. He survives bringing fishermen to fish in the vessel and predicting the future using his bow and shooting arrows in a Buddhist painting on the hull of the vessel while the girl moves back and forth in a swing. He also uses the bow and arrows to protect the girl against sexual assault of the fishermen. They live happily until the day that a teenage student comes to the ship and the girl feels attracted for him. When the teenager discovers that the girl was abducted when she was six and does not know the world, he returns to the vessel to bring the girl back to her parents. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Hwal / The Bow is a very rich movie for those interested in Buddhism however in cinematic terms there are some fairly substantial and overt structural problems with the movie. For example the film starts with a jolt of clumsy expositional dialogue (this is where characters have a very forced conversation that reveals the back story of the movie). Motifs are over-repeated (shooting of arrows) and non-sourced / non-diegetic music is layered on every time the old man starts to play his bow, all the worse because it is fairly saccharine.
Those with a yen for Buddhist films are however living on food parcels and so the film's flaws may be overlooked in kindness to the healing the film provides and the thoughts it provokes.
The plot of the movie concerns an old man who lives out on the sea on a fishing boat. He provides divination services and also a platform for line fishing. Customers sit on pastel-coloured sofas and ease away the day. He has spent a decade bringing up a young foundling girl and intends the unnatural act of marrying her when she reaches age.
To me one of the key points of Buddhism is that if you are angry with the world, there are two ways to proceed, change the world or change your attitude to it, the latter is the more likely to work. Another idea would be to be like the smooth stone in a river, over which the world flows softly, rather than the jagged cause of turbulence. Dukkha (a catch-all concept of suffering that has no direct translation to English) is minimised by the changing of the self. One facet of dukkha is viparinama-dukkha, which concerns the pain of unmet expectations and the pain caused by the impermanence of happiness. The old man in the movie suffers from this and has to learn to deal with it.
I found myself accepting unpalatable truths about my life watching this movie and salvaged a couple of evenings of calm from it. I would recommend it to those seeking to do likewise. One point to raise is that Kim is not averse to animal cruelty in his movies, in this one a chicken receives several deliberate blows from a character.
Others have pointed to the entire movie being composed of symbols, this is a particularly beautiful alternative way of looking at the movie, although it amounts to much the same take home in the end.
This is to my friend Mollie.
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