Alfred Bauer Prize Winner for Innovative Film at Berlin
Film Festival 2007
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Rain, Lim Su-Jeong
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: GV & Encore Films
Official Website: www.cyborg2006.co.kr
Opening Day: 8 March 2007
Young-goon is admitted to a mental institution. Believing
herself to be a cyborg, she refuses to eat and instead charges
herself with a transistor radio. At the institution, she sees
a young man playing ping pong wearing a mask. He is Il-soon,
an off-beat character who has the ability to steal personal
and intangible things from people, like habits and characteristics.
Young-goon finds all this charming and they become fast friends.
Young-goon faints because she refuses to eat, and even become
delusional. Il-soon is racked with worry and is determined
to get her eating again.
Do not be fooled. This is no typical Korean romantic comedy.
Fresh from his diabolical and intriguing vengeance trilogy
(Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old boy and Lady Vengeance),
director Park Chan-Wook breaks the genre’s traditional
moulds (as well as his own) and delivers something totally
out of the box.
I used to jest that to make it as a Korean actress (apart
from Lee Yeung-Ae’s Guem Ja in Lady Vengeance), all
you need do is cry and look vulnerable on demand. Not here.
Lim Su-Jeong (Tale of Two Sisters) is utterly refreshing and
convincing as paranoid schizophrenic Young Goon who thinks
that she is a cyborg. Thus, she cannot eat and charging herself
by means of batteries and communicates with vending machines
and light bulbs using her grandmother’s dentures.
This film is also Korean pop sensation Rain’s first
movie debut. Rain is Il-Soon, a Kleptomaniac who is afraid
of vanishing, and has ‘the ability’ to steal other
people’s personalities and powers. I must say that he’s
acting is somewhat average but believable and definitely honest.
And of course, he sings and gets to walk around in his boxers
for a bit. But these are not the end of their eccentricities.
The list is long and numerous as are the other colourful and
plain bizarre patients in the mental institution including
the bewildering polite man who walks backwards and a hilarious
obese bully who is obsessed with her skin and has the ability
to fly. But one common trait stands out – despite their
‘illness’ and predicaments, they all are trying
to make sense of their lives.
Though retaining its similar Korean romance-like charms and
providing some good laughs, this movie truly departs into
a world of the neurotic, eccentric and downright strange.
From the very beginning, viewers know that they are in for
one wild ride, especially when Young Goon listens to a somewhat
robotic voice, slits her wrists, inserts wires into the bloody
mess and plugs it the wall. Park Chan-Wook has proven himself
to be a master director and innovator of modern film.
The story itself is simple and can be succinctly told in a
very short time. However, director Park takes his time, allowing
us to see and live the perceived realities of the main and
supporting cast. It is obvious he cannot shake off his twisted
and murderous style from his Vengeance films – in one
extended scene Young-Goon takes out the hospital staff in
bloody orgy of bullets from her ‘finger pistols’
in revenge for the captivity of her Grandmother. Outsiders
frown and misunderstand, but ultimately it is real for people
Nonetheless, by letting the audience delve into the perceived
“realities” of the couple and the other characters,
the film does become somewhat ponderous and slow. But apart
from that, the writing is strong and the transitions between
perceived reality and the real world is artful. The visual
effects are also superior.
We reflect on the characters and of ourselves. Are we so different
from the patients at Park’s mental hospital? Amid the
chaos and madness of our lives, we still love, we laugh, we
feel, and we all seek the meaning and purpose of our own existence.
breath of fresh air and a happy ending!)
by Darren Sim