Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. , . , , . Screenplay by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by Ki-duk Kim. Film Editing by . Toronto International Film Festival 2001.
Denizens of a barren rural landscape live in a holding pattern in the decades since the war, the presence of Americans still felt thanks to the nearby U.S. army base and the soldiers who occupy it. Among the many characters we encounter in Kim Ki-Duk’s dark exploration of life is a young woman whose one eye was injured in a childhood prank, living with her helpless mother and bitter brother and finding her only joy in the puppy she has recently acquired. Nearby is an unstable woman who lives in a bus with the son she had with an American soldier, constantly writing letters to find her son’s father which are promptly returned as undeliverable, while her boyfriend kidnaps dogs and kills them to sell their meat. Kim’s dour perspective on these people’s lives is a feeling of Sisyphean hopelessness, constantly giving them a reprieve from their woes that is then taken back in equal measure, making for a film whose political allegory is intelligent but whose effect is minimized by how dark and unrelenting the tone is. The excellent acting by the Korean actors is uncomfortably offset by the terrible acting by the men playing American soldiers, who give the impression that they are not professionals, while some viewers will be made quite squeamish by the visceral scenes of bodily harm to both humans and their canine friends (which the film promises us are staged).