Isle

aka SEOM
Movie Reviews by EDF and Alice Castle

Starring: Suh Jung, Kim Yoo-Suk, Park Sung-Hee, Cho Jae-Hyung, Jang Hang-Sun
Director: Kim Ki-Duk

Review by EDF

Hollywood likes movies that are easily marketable so there is no confusion that a movie is one thing and not another. Those familiar with Asian movies are aware of its tendency to shock when the viewer is least expecting it. THE ISLE easily falls into this category. On the occasion when situations turn nasty in such movies, nasty can be very nasty compared to the tame images from English speaking cinema. Even though THE ISLE has been around since 2000, it has only just been passed in the UK with various noticeable cuts.

A solitary fishing isle near a forest is where people would go to spend their time either fishing or participating in their vices. Hee-Jin (Suh Jung) is the mysterious groundskeeper who silently escorts her customers to their mini boat-huts. She sells them bait by day and her body at night. Hyun-shik (Kim Yoo-Suk) arrives on the scene, on the run from the police for killing his adulterous girlfriend and her lover. Hee-Jin watches Hyun-shik very closely, aware that something is bothering him.

With this guilt laying heavy on his conscious, Hyun-shik attempts suicide but Hee-Jin stops him. When the police arrive on the scene capturing a suspect for another crime, Hyun-shik panics and attempts to kill himself by swallowing fishhooks and then pull them back out. Again he is saved by Hee-Jin who not only nurses him back to health but also uses sex to cure him of both physical and emotional pain. With both of them showing violent tendencies, could they possibly make their relationship work?

The scenery has a dreamlike feel to it, thanks mainly to the movie’s slow pace. There is also a definite menacing undercurrent that will unsettle the viewer. What we see here is how people deal with their emotional problems by harming themselves in the most gruesome way. Strangely these are not the scenes that have been cut. Cruelty to animals is something that is not easy to take to, so the scenes that were cut were of those depicting the gutting of fish, cruelty to birds and dogs and the skinning of a frog. While these scenes are cruel, you will feel uneasy watching the scenes of human self-mutilation that has been left in.

3 out of 6 stars
Review by Alice Castle

The beautiful and silent Hee-Jin (Suh Jung) runs a fishing centre on a lake in the middle of a forest in Korea. She serves the men who come to hide-away from the world – bandits, adulterers and potenital suicides, bringing them fishing worms for bait, cleaning their huts and occasionally allowing them to pay her for sex. Her only friend is the Dog she beats when it all becomes too much for her – and her hobby is electrocuting fish with car batteries. Can you tell the rest of the story?

Well, she falls in love with one of her customers, a young man hiding away from the world, ready to take his own life once he has gathered the courage to get on with it. They begin to communicate with each other without talking – leaving gifts or signs, until they have established a relationship of a kind – and until it all turns very nasty indeed.

The moral of the story is that people, like animals can be wounded if they are attacked. But the instinct to survive means they will always try to escape even though they may be damaged forever. This is all very well – I even agree with the fact that to complain about violence against animals is hypocritical if one is willing to eat them – but the film gives its message in such unnecessary graphic and violent detail the message is lost.

THE ISLE directed by Kim Ki-Duk is one of the most revolting, mysoginistic films I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch. Despite splendid cinematography I found the violence so disgusting and the imagery so clumsily obvious it made me want to leave the cinema. Not for the faint-hearted!

1 out of 6 stars

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