Ruthless art of Kim Ki-Duk
text: Ruslan Iskanderov , exclusively for Gazeta.kz
A lot of interesting programmes will be shown at "Eurasia" film festival in Almaty. However, the presentation of the work of Kim Ki-Duk from South Korea, one of the most famous and contradictive filmmakers of our epoch, who entered the world cinema elite as a meteor, will doubtlessly become the most significant event.
This choice of Kim Ki-Duk for one of the festival's author cinema programmes (the second filmmaker is Emir Kusturica), is not incidental - Kim works with an astonishing love of labour, provoking disaccords among cinema critics and destroying eternal canons and stereotypes.
Already the first film "Crocodile," shot literally for pennies had a psychedelic scenario (a lone man earns his living by finding and hiding bodies of drowned people in order to get money from their relatives afterwards.)
This creative move - a choice of an original plot, will later become a characteristic feature of the entire Kim's filmography. This guy breaks all traditional ideas about the cinema - following Haneke, Truffaut, Tarantino and other representatives of the art house, turning their looks to the raw and harsh side of life.
Kim Ki-Duk never studied filmmaking, actually he never got any professional education at all. He was born in a mountainous village, grew up in the atmosphere of street gangs, used to fight. Then his family moved and Kim was sent to an agricultural school from where he ran away. He didn't want to grow rice, he wanted to grow up himself.
After that he made a usual way of a homeless teenager: worked in different factories, in the age of 20 he is recruited by the Navy and serves there for 5 years. His life's wanderings have nearly made him a preacher in a church and his desire for creativity made him start painting, but all that for short period. Eventually this vagabond came to Paris, where he saw a film for the first time ("Les Amants du Pont Neuf" by Leos Carax). He realised that he found his calling and made an oath to himself that he will become the world's best filmmaker. And he managed to achieve quite a lot.
In 1995 Kim Ki-Duk gained the Grand Prix of the Scriptwriters Guild of Korea. In 1996 he shot his first film on his own scenario - the "Crocodile". He founded a movement "Contradictive and Unique," which renovated the Korean cinema.
Kim Ki-Duk is a unique figure in the history of the Korean cinema. Only persons coming from the privileged strata of South Korean society are dealing with filmmaking in Korea. Kim Ki-Duk brings violent energy of outcasts and marginals into this refined stratum, shooting films without any previous training. He calls himself a "partisan" and ignores cinematography rules, fully relying on his intuition.
They call Kim Ki-Duk a poet of violence and hate - and it is true in the sense that he opens the inside of the well-off world, which according to his deep conviction cannot be otherwise, for a spectator. The severe life experience of the filmmaker has been shown in his films, only with a small difference that the cruelty is a fruitful form of human relations in his films, the moving force of history. His heroes - prostitutes, pimps, coppers, urban street kids, all of them eventually want happiness, but they are all sure that it can be reached only through suffering - either their own or of the others. Such is the world and they are ready to accept its rules.
During his nine year career Kim Ki-Duk has made a lot of good films, manifesting himself as a very original filmmaker, whose works combine an interesting plot with a high artistic performance.
In his films he turn desires of lonely people into images of feverish self-destruction and fine lyricism. The plots may vary, but they are all united by aesthetics of ruthless human sincerity, for which there are no prohibited themes or cadres.
In one of his interviews Kim said that his credo was to open the other side of life for people, which is always there, but which is avoided by people for fear of disrupting their internal balance. And it is done with subtle professionalism.
The "Address Unknown" is telling about a small village near a US military base, beginning as a pastoral story it is gradually turning into a ruthless thriller.
In the "Coast Guard" a psychosis is little by little getting hold of a coast guard unit developing into a bloody nightmare.
The "Bad Guy" speaks of big love that ends by a hood of red lights.
It can be maintained with certainty that in some of his films Kim is trying to create a "fantasy" on the subject of his own biography.
Thus in the "Real Fiction" an artist finding himself in conflict with the surrounding world meets a girl with a video camera. She brings him inspiration, but at the same time, she releases all the hell's angels that were dormant in his suffering soul. Wild, uncontrollable instincts bearing death and destruction - such is his bitter pay for creative impulses. South Korean critics call him inheritor of one of the greatest masters of the Korean cinema Kim Ki-Young, who showed finest forms of passion and violence at the earliest stage of the Korean cinema development in the 1950-60s.
Kim Ki-Duk breaks usual stereotypes. A poet of passion and cruelty can be a fine lyricist.
One of Kim's best films is "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring Again." Nothing here reminds of previous Kim's films. The action embraces for seasons and four corresponding stages of human life.
The protagonists are a monk living in a pagoda and a boy, his disciple, who becomes a man and later a wise old man. However one can witness it right away: it is a film by Kim Ki-Duk, and probably his best film.
All events in the film are taking place at a lake, which immediately makes one remember the "Isle" - the first scandalously famous film of the filmmaker. The "Isle" was the first to draw the critique and public attention to the young rebellious Korean guy, and this interest has been growing always stronger ever since.
Kim Ki-Duk occupies a special place in the Korean cinema, the list of his films is rapidly growing. His "partisan" approach to the filmmaking, with an extremely low budget and a high speed, causes contradictive opinions. But what is surprising, is that he still continues to make films, although he has never enjoyed commercial success in Korea.
Unlike the majority of Korean filmmakers, coming from the higher or middle classes, Kim Ki-Duk nearly all of his life "had nothing to do with culture." It allows him to create unbelievable portraits of those who are lacking any adequate conditions for their existence. Not a single Korean filmmaker knows the simple people as well as Kim Ki-Duk does: those strata of the society that are accustomed to despair and degradation so much that they don't even dream about any redemption.
Moreover his films have such a lot of fascinating graphic images that they seem to be a bunch of sparkles cutting through the dark of the night.
The "Isle" and the "Address Unknown" were included into the competition programme of the Venice International Film Festival.
Kim Ki-Duk as "an authentic representative of Korean cinema is both original and interesting from the commercial point of view", despite his belonging to the art house, has become well-known in many world countries. The presentation of his films at "Eurasia" festival, will doubtlessly become a gift for the cinema lovers in Kazakhstan.
Also in the "In Depth"
09.01.2013 2012 marked by multiple events in Kazakhstan