Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bin-Jip (3-Iron) (2004)

Seen: On our big-screen/projector set-up, streamed from my boyfriend's hard drive.

Tae-suk (Lee Hyun-kyoon) spends his days breaking into vacationing rich people's homes and practicing his golf swing. He's a pretty low-key guy. He doesn't steal anything, just hangs out and enjoys their comforts while they're away, eating some of their food and straightening up the place. One day he is discovered by Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), a bitter, abused housewife who finds herself drawn to him and his strange way of life. She leaves her husband to spend time with Tae-suk, but eventually the authorities catch up to them.

I have been meaning to see any of Kim Ki-duk's films for quite some time, and finally pushed for it last week. 3-Iron was on my long-forgotten list of 11 Films to See in 2011, so that's cool too. With a largely dialogue-free script and a minimalistic but emotional approach, 3-Iron is a beautifully-rendered love story that forces you to pay attention to details without ever saying a word. It is a tribute to expression, and especially to gesture. With pointed, deliberate movements the characters feel each other out and ultimately connect on an instinctive, sub-conscious level. The pacing is slow, but the script is filled with such delightful small moments and dramatic turns that I never lost interest; the lack of speech between the protagonists encouraged me to pay more attention to visual cues.

For me sparsity and minimalism in film can often be hit and miss, but the strong performances, offbeat story, and thoughtful settings kept me riveted. At times it's like watching a modern silent film, but with a more subdued atmosphere and talkative tertiary characters in lieu of inter-title cards. I love how it starts off realistically, but then slowly adds a surreal element in Tae-suk's struggle to fully disappear. It's a sad bit of magical realism as he mentally enables himself to be unseen by anyone but Sun-hwa, finally fulfilling his earlier attempts to live invisibly. But it's also a fitting and quietly beautiful end.

It has to be said, though, that Lee Hyung-kyoon has a really dorky haircut.


Pair This Movie With: For another movie with young people breaking into homes but not stealing anything- albeit in a more political manner this time- I do enjoy the German film The Edukators. Or for another conversation-light couple there's the experimental romance Four-Eyed Monsters.