"Today, kids drop by the plastic surgery office after school, and when they get home, their parents can almost not recognize them," Asian Time magazine wrote in 2002. It is estimated that half of all South Korean girls in their XNUMXs have had surgery. Young people who have not yet taken the step, glue their eyelids daily to get bigger, more western eyes.
Nobody beats Asia on cosmetic surgery. In a continent characterized by overpopulation, it is important to stand out and many invest in an intervention to get better jobs. However, in South Korean Kim Ki-duk's latest film, Time, there are no job opportunities that cause the protagonists to undergo drastic operations. It is love.
Paranoia and paradoxes
Again, there is identity Ki-Duk explores. It's about modern, pretty See-hee, who begins to doubt girlfriend Ji-woo's feelings for her. The doubt turns into paranoia, which in turn leads her to believe that if she wants to keep her boyfriend, she must be someone else.
We find such paradoxes in several of Ki-Duk's films, and again he uses face masks to illustrate the distance people take for themselves. In Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring, the monk and killer cover their faces with paper with the calligraphy inscription “closed” when the storms are worst. Later, a woman comes face to face with a scarf, she has an infant with her to leave.
In Time we encounter the stitches again. Ki-Duk points to the metamorphic aspect, the unnatural and the violent of the interventions, by allowing the patients to wear solid bandages throughout much of the film. In the most intimidating passages, See-hee wears a mask that is a 1: 1 photograph of her own face. The symbolism here is exaggerated and quite literally but effective. Ki-Duk is again able to make relatively blunt symbolism powerful and was.
Under the skin
Because when See-hee cries, the mask can not cry with her, it breaks, tears melt through the photo paper. Also in Spring, Summer… the tears force their way through the mask's material.
Paradoxically, the masks help expose humans in their attempt to disappear, while also emphasizing their relationship to their own bodies, and thus to the ravages of time.
Time is symbolic and menacing in its contemporary subtle and almost violent direct expression. It seeks to reach under the skin, and then turn it off, from within.
As in Bin Jip – Empty houses, photography takes on a special meaning. In one scene, See-hee walks barefoot over the pictures of herself and her boyfriend, the pictures are strewn across the floor, and it is as if she is trying to follow the time backwards. The hopelessness of the experiment is emphasized precisely in the images and the different nature of the feet. See-hee's movements will always be future-oriented, no matter how far back she extends. It is the frustration of this certainty that Ki-Duk comments on.
This is also the case in Bin Jip, where the main characters break into other people's homes and take pictures of themselves in front of their portraits, or manipulate the pictures. By transforming images and faces, Ki-Duk's characters destroy their validity, their presumed truth: In both films, attempts are made to control the environment.
After the first operation, See-hee disappears from his girlfriend, and large parts of the film are about the couple looking for each other. They keep returning to a figurine park on the beach. Among the figures are two open hands with a staircase in between. The stairs get narrower and narrower over the open hands, before disappearing into nothingness. This is the figure the couple finds support in, finds its way back to, while the disappearing staircase signals the obvious. Again, dead objects are used to say more than any dialogue could have done.
Despite all this violent seriousness, the film is also littered with absurd gallows humor. The characters get overreacted and outspoken so the whole thing sometimes approaches a modern farce, and the caricatured behavior becomes more annoying than absurd. These are not people we should like, and Ki-Duk's films are not made for pleasure. They will disturb, put beautiful and evil things against each other, dig around in the soup where identity, morality and weakness boil together. It will be challenging, but mostly good.