3-Iron (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Jae Hee, Lee Seung-yeon, Jang Hoon, Park Se-jin
Director: Kim Ki-duk

It is difficult to grasp exactly why an intelligent, well-educated young man would break into houses – with no intent to steal or vandalise, but rather to clean up after the absent residents while they are away on holiday. I suppose it’s a payment for sleeping in their beds and eating their food. But this is exactly what Tae-suk (Jae Hee) does.

He does it alone until one day, within one temporary dwelling, he meets a lonely, broken woman. She is an attractive ex-model with a husband who can’t help but regularly batter her face. He likes golf. Maybe he thinks that she’s a golf ball.

Without saying a word to each other, Tae-suk and the married woman, Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), establish a truly magical connection. This eventually inspires her to join him in his bizarre routine and everything is suddenly more fulfilling as one becomes two. With an angry husband looking for his punching bag and a lifestyle recipe for disaster, for how long is this going to last?

Satiated with silence and skilfully shot, this film subtly incorporates dreams and reality. Set in Korea’s modern landscape, it represents a culture westernised, but in which an age-old spirit of love – pure and devoid of all material things – can still be found. The idea behind this story at first seems unfathomable, but I think it is exactly this profound take on life and love that makes it truly beautiful.

This otherworldly tale is also laden with symbolic reference, hardly surprising being the fine work of director Kim Ki-duk (of SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING fame), whose poetic vision drives 3-IRON the way the golf club would drive a ball — in the hands of a pro. This movie is golf for the soul.

3-IRON is like a matured brandy; it is best sipped and appreciated slowly. Smell it, savour it, value the colour, try and understand it. Be patient and don’t give up. You will find that the aftertaste will linger on.

5 out of 6 stars