NH Tit-Bits
06 July 2011
Kim Ki-duk's "Arirang" - auteur cinema in pure form

Arirang, a movie by Kim Ki-duk, a Korean master of metaphysical films, made three years after the premiere of Dream, and granted Un Certain Regard Award during this year's Cannes Festival, is, as critics writer, a beautiful and frustrating, accurate and pretentious, honest and slovenly (especially when compared with his previous films) film therapy, auteur cinema in its pure form. In Wroclaw Arirang will be screened during the competition Films about Art, whereas the audience will be given the chance to meet Kim Ki-duk in person after the screening.

"It is a famous director and a very strong film. We are proud that we have managed to bring him here", says the curator of the series, Ewa Szabłowska. "The director temporarily suspended making films after an accident that occurred while shooting his previous film (one of the actresses nearly died). After this event, the director suffered from a nervous breakdown. He spent three years in a hut with no heating located on the Korean countryside and it was there that he was making a movie about himself. Here we have Kim Ki-duk seen from the inside and a film rendering creativity crisis as well as attempts made to exorcise it."

This is what Paweł T. Felis from Gazeta Wyborcza said after the film's screening in Cannes:

"Kim Ki-duk's Arirang is the film that has been the greatest surprise of this festival so far - a director known for lyrical, inspired films-parables crammed more and more with symbols in a mannerist way this time made a documentary about himself, a film shot with a digital camera, as if it was supposed to be clumsy on purpose."Let they say whatever they want - I shall finish this film anyway!" he says, or rather shouts, in Arirang. The whole film revolves around shouting, wailing, and hysterical bitterness.

Thus, we spy on the director who leads life of a hermit, without running water or heating, with a tent put up in his house, in the midst of scattered souvenirs reminding of his past successes: on the walls there are awards for previous films, posters, screenplays full of notes and words crossed out. Today he doesn't make films any more since all his friends, producers and authorities have used him and turned away from him. At least that's what he claims.

It's not clear to what extent it is an autocreation, act, or, finally, an expression of authentic despair. "I have made a documentary about myself - after having shot fifteen films I thought it was worth asking myself what film is and what cinema is", said the director before the screening. From Arirang, in which Kim Ki-duk is watching on a tiny screen the pieces taken from an old film (crying at the same time), and, most importantly, is singing the title song in a hysterical manner ("we sing it when we feel bad or lonely), we can draw a conclusion, the one which might not have been intentional: cinema is a confabulation. I have always thought that behind Kim Ki-duk's films there is a sensitive director-swindler and Arirang attests to this notion to a certain extent. Yet, all these peculiar plays revolving around talking to oneself (or to one's shadow), playing Kim Ki-duk and "Kim Ki-duk" can be also treated as bravado show of self-criticism - if there is someone that the maker of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring is truly merciless to, it is he himself."

Many years ago there was another Arirang made (1926), a film considered to be a gem of an early period in the history of Korean film industry. Its director, at that time a 25-year-old Na Un Kyu, tackled also the issues of production as well as appeared in one of the leading roles. Arirang is a story about a man, who, as a consequence of trauma resulting from the torture he was put through by the Japanese police, goes insane and kills the son of a wealthy landowner. The title, as is the case with Kim Ki-duk's film, has been taken from a folk song, which became an anthem for the Korean independence movement. The film, admired both due to its artistic value and political message, was an inspiration to young directors-relists who at that time used to make films of resistance to the Japanese occupation.

Arirang during the 11th edition of NH

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