Original title: Saibogujiman kwenchana
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Lim Su-jeong, Rain
I'm ashamed to say that I didn't pay attention to this when it was released, due mostly to the film's title and cover art - which made it seem like a Korean romcom melodrama - not exactly my style.
However what I didn't realise, and should have, was that this is a Park Chan-wook movie (Oldboy, Thirst, etc) ... and Mr Park just doesn't make bad movies. Period. In fact he seems to be single-handedly redefining excellence in every genre he attempts.
This is creative film-making at its best and just another confirmation that he is one of the most incredible directors around right now. I've heard that Park made this movie as a departure from his usual style so that his 12yo daughter could watch one of his movies. Well, rest assured - this is not at all what I'd consider a child's movie. Although it does have a somewhat more upbeat heart than let's say, revenge-killing, it is still wildly surreal, offbeat and intelligent.
The movie follows Cha Young-goon (Lim) who ends up in a lunatic asylum, believing that she's actually a cyborg. Using her grandma's false teeth to converse with vending machines and light fixtures, it's not such a surprise that she has ended up here.
The problem is that she keeps running out of energy. Obviously the hospital food is of no use to a cyborg, but sucking batteries isn't giving her a great deal of juice either.
Luckily she meets up with Park Il-soon (Rain), who is able to steal the peculiarities or delusions of other patients. In a nod to the director's previous Revenge trilogy, she convinces him to steal her 'sympathy' so that she is free to remorselessly wipe-out the hospital orderlies.
Along the way we meet many of the other patients, all with their own strange quirks. One patient walks everywhere backwards while believing that everything that goes wrong is his fault. Another can't stop eating but has magic boots that enable her to fly if she concentrates hard enough.
What's really interesting is how Park has used the delusions of the schizophrenic patients to show an altered reality, allowing the film to integrate Alice in Wonderland style visuals, psychotic killing sprees, and sci-fi elements into the story completely seamlessly. This is quite some feat!
To say any more of the plot would spoil the thrill of the ride, and I'm not sure I could fully do it justice in any case. Fans of unique, surreal movies should not delay in checking this one out. It's extremely funny, well-written, well-acted and has top-notch production values.
As with all of Park's movies, the visuals are spectacular - but even more so here. Just check out the screen-caps to see what I mean - and I could easily have included four times as many.
Screenshots - click to enlarge
For another film in this vein, also check out Welcome to the Quiet Room from Japan.