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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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 to 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
Probably Kim Ki-Duk's second most pivotal work to date "Hwai" ("The Bow") tells a story of unconventional love - one full of obsession, unfulfilled dreams and poetry. An old fisherman (Seong-hwang Jeon) lives on a decrepit boat together with a coming of age girl, which he rescued from death at sea, when she was no more than 8 years old. She came to live with him on this boat, where her only contact with the outside world are hobbyists, who pay money to come to fish at sea. All that keeps them company are themselves and the delicate music of a bow instrument. After years of caring after the girl the old man has come to love her, but not in a fatherly way. His longing is to marry the beautiful orphan once she reaches the required age...
Kim Ki-Duk is capable of beautiful storytelling, as is to be confirmed by such works of brilliance as "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring". And "The Bow" comes extremely close to such exceptionality, albeit never finally overcomes it's own weaknesses. Nonetheless this is an extremely enjoyable and delightful movie, even though filled with unrealised passions and immoral egoism. Even though the script is extremely simple, even threadbare, it never lingers and keeps you enthralled throughout. Not only by the impressive cinematography, but also the subtle acting and storytelling complemented by a riveting score.
Nonetheless the issues with Kim Ki-Duk as a storyteller are quite apparent. The strength of his movie is in lyricism, romanticism and ideas that do not necessarily fit in well with the modern cynicism of today. As long as the poetry is silent the magic overwhelms you. But the moment Kim Ki-Duk's characters start talking the spell is broken, as everything becomes mundane and at times even corny. Thankfully for "The Bow" our two main protagonists do not utter a word throughout the whole movie, whilst outsiders come few and far between. This allows the director to keep his movie consistent in its poetry, something which he was unable to convey in more previous movies such as "Dream" or "Time", where poetry transforms into 'corniness' and the story sells itself short. Even in "The Bow" you have a couple of very awkward scenes, which didn't seem to fit and came out as forcibly placed into the movie (especially a rather awkward self-masturbation scene near the end of it all).
Nonetheless a required watch for anyone who likes a bit of Buddhist philosophy for dinner.
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