Kim Ki – Duk’s documentary “Arirang“

It appears that it’s possible for a single person to shoot an award winning movie using only a photo camera as an equipment and at the same time being a director, an operator, an actor as well as playing all other roles in the process of filmmaking. If you’re as talented as Kim Ki-Duk, you won’t necessarily need a film crew at all. Kim Ki-duk started distrusting people when one of his dear students stole a script they had written together. “Arirang” is an impellent and poetic documentary drama. It gives viewer a chance to take a glimpse into famous South Korean director’s soul and attempt to understand why he decided to desolate the world of cinema.

Even though the movie is an autobiographical documentary about secluded artist’s life in the mountains, it has all the elements required by a narrative story. Lyrical prelude, rising tension, bursting emotions, resolution. Daily household chores, uncomfortable nibbling, weatherbeaten heels and other not quite aesthetical images give you a hint from the very beginning: you shouldn’t be here if you came to watch a comfortable story. In one prolonged take Kim Ki-Duk is neatly brushing his long hair. When he finally manages to make a decent hairdo, he flashes a steady glance into the mirror and prepares for a confrontation with the viewers as well as with himself.

An intriguing solution to vary long monologues is to exchange them with even longer dialogs with… himself. Kim Ki-duk with a neat hairdo rigorously interrogates shaggy and emotionally unstable Kim Ki-duk. Kim Ki-duk talks to his shadow politely as if it was a spirit of his ancestor. Double personality? Just as well. Who else while living a secluded life than yourself could stimulate and inspire you to start living again instead of merely existing?

Director makes no bones and shows even the most intimidating emotions (modern cinema should have already disenchanted the fact that men don’t cry) – it’s perplexing and admirable at the same time. He constructs espresso machine while, ironically, strong coffee is an obvious symbol of stressful and rushing modern world. He even manages to engineer an elegant handgun. During the film Kim Ki-duk repetitiously bursts into “Arirang”, an old Korean song called by the word which has no specific meaning in the modern language. It seems that the crisis of the artist has no specific reasons either: it was a gradual progress during the intensive process of creating. Just like that handmade espresso machine.

A unique story of one person created almost without any money and using incredibly simple equipment has picked an award in 2011 Cannes International Film Festival. During the event Kim Ki-duk agreed to give only a single interview. Things appeared to be brighter when he told that shooting and introducing this unusual movie helped him to recover. Yet during the same interview everyone got confused when he started sobbing the same languorous “Arirang”.

by Marija Sajekaite

This entry was posted by Kaunas IFF.

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