Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Another film by Korean director Kim Ki-duk: Bin-jip, which may or may not be Korean for its English title 3-Iron. I saw his film Seom a while ago and quite liked it for its calmness.

In Bin-jip we find the same calmness but in close-up. While in Seom things seemed quite distant and open at times with the wide scenery of the lake always being available, in Bin-Jip everything is literally at an arm’s length. As is manifested by the main protagonist who takes photos of himself in every house he visits. His visits are to houses whose inhabitants aren’t in for a few days – a fact he can tell by sticking fast food ads to their doorknobs and seeing which ones aren’t removed and that can be confirmed by checking the away messages on people’s answering machines. So there’s this modern and real fast food / answering machine / digicam side of the film.

Taking a photo of himself in someone else's flat

But it’s not the important side. It just firmly situates the film in current times. What’s more amazing is how he lives in strangers’ houses for a day – really feeling at home, using everything, enjoying the place and treating it well. He cleans up after himself and even repairs a broken gadget or buries a died tenant when he comes across them.

On one of his stays in a house he meets the woman living there who has been hiding from her husband who beat her up. He doesn’t notice that she’s around – hiding in the house and following him – at first and ends up taking her with him once her husband returns. Then they go on and live in other people’s places for a while until they get caught with the absurd situation that they didn’t do anything that anybody besides her husband would’ve complained about. She is let go and he strengthens his role as a ghost by hiding from his prison guard.

After a few visits to flats he has been to before as a ‘ghost’ he returns to the woman who has been taken back home by her husband. Her husband is highly suspicious but in his (the protagonist’s) ghostlike behaviour of entirely moving behind his back, he manages to stay at the house.

So what’s happening is full of subtle suspense on its own. But what made it really powerful was the good filming and the amazing fact that the protagonist doesn’t speak a single word throughout the film, the most we get are plenty of smiles. And the woman only speaks a single sentence as well. (Guess which one!)

A very cool film! One that leaves you wondering whether he only existed in her imagination. Whether you could actually live in such a ghostlike state. How you’d deal with such ‘guests’ to your house. …

A hug and a kiss

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

August 14, 2005, 1:29


Comment by Jan Creutzenberg: User icon

I also enjoyed Bin-Jip! I didn’t know about Kim Ki-Duk before, actually I hadn’t watched a single Korean movie either. The ghostlike appearances of either the woman (in the beginning) and the boy (in the end) and how the camera kind of directed my view and my expectations, that was fascinating. But I also liked what You call the modern side of the film: Answering machines as technical ghosts, immobile substitutes for the inhabitants (at one time the husband is talking to the machine as to a person, cause he suspects his wife listening); the charming ring-tone of the brutal husband when he gets a call from the police; the old videotapes of boxing-fights as sentimental memories of the past; and these digital-pictures that create an imaginary family (the first real ‘love’-szene, as far as I remember, takes place when the woman enters the picture frame of the boys camera and thus joins him). Did You know that this technique, called Sel-Ca (‘self-camera’), is characteristical to Koreans? I was told by some Korean friends that when you see somebody on the street taking a picture of himself he probably is Korean. greetings, Jan

September 18, 2005, 9:13

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