"Communication & Lies":The Communication Method of Broken People

in 20th Busan International Film Festival

by Youngmee Hwang

Communication & LiesThe film Communication & Lies (sotong&gujitmal) begins with a woman (Sun JANG) and a man (Kwon-hoo KIM) who do things that are difficult to understand; a woman has sex with men at random during her cleaning work at a private academy; a man who is a teacher calls a hotline to complain about his neighbor’s dog watching him; even sex between the protagonists is conducted oddly and nonchalantly. Their eccentric behavior goes far, taken to the extreme where no one knows how it will end. The level of sexual expression is high. Nevertheless, the film was invited to the New Currents section of the 20th Busan International Film Festival and won the NETPAC Award in the Korean Cinema Today Vision section. Moreover, Sun JANG, playing ‘a woman’, won Actress of the Year at the closing ceremony on Oct 10th.

The reason for this notable achievement is that the film has a clever plot. In the beginning, the film shows the behaviors of both an abnormal man and an abnormal woman. It then moves to the traumas that have caused their abnormal conduct. Meanwhile, their madness increases until the climax. However, since the audience gets to know that the two are deeply wounded, it is hard for the audience to blame them for their extreme and self-destructive behavior. The audience is shocked by their destructive behavior and its sadist and masochistic manifestations, but at the same time we feel guilt for their shocking emotions towards the man and woman.

One can even ask if the wounds are so deep that they dehumanize the characters. Isn’t it hard to communicate properly with each other? Or do others have the right to accuse broken-hearted people of weird behavior? Although the level of sexual expression goes to an extreme level, the audience would not condemn the two. The blame lies with the relationships or social structures that have hurt them and not their individual beahviours. Now the blame is shifted to the audience whose bias against those behaviors went without noticing the wounds. Then the audience is faced with their own wounds whilst feeling the two protagonists’ pain.

Surprisingly, it is the first feature film from director Seung-won LEE, who uses this clever technique. This different directing technique may come from his background in directing plays. The film also breaks cinematic grammar in two ways; the 4:3 aspect ratio of black and white film that gives a freshness and uniqueness, and captivating directing that starts with an eight-minute long take not showing the protagonist’s face. Add to that naturalistic acting which also plays a crucial role in visualizing the deep sorrow the film expresses. Sun JANG, playing a woman, performs eccentric behavior naturally and calmly. Simultaneously, she acts well in expressing explosive madness from bipolar disorder to get over the trauma. Sun JANG’s performance has such power it conveys the message in the film. In addition, Kwon-hoo KIM’s weird behavior with his look of an ordinary person well represents neighbors who, in reality, have similar wounds and traumatic pasts. Communication & Lies directly shows the intensity of revealing the sadism and masochism of broken hearted people. But, at the same time, it contains pathos in this intensity, which leaves a strong aftertaste.

Edited by Tara Judah