How Nice to Be a Cat

in 18th Busan International Film Festival

by Andrzej Werner

It was one of the two films considered by our jury for the FIPRESCI prize. Finally Pascha lost to another South Korean film, 10 Minutes, but, in my opinion, it was one of the most fascinating films of the New Currents section of the 18thBusan International Film Festival. Maybe even the best, but why is that so, considering the simplicity of the story?

The whole of mankind is divided into cat or dog lovers — I definitely belong to the second group. Nevertheless, I was deeply touched by the first 15 minutes of Pascha, which are consequently focused on the relationships between people and their beloved cats. That love is unconditional means that we can easily find in itsshadows a desperate self-affirmation. At the very core of that feeling is the love itself, and this shadow remains like the dark side of the moon: we can see it in ourreflectiononthe time we spent there. For the protagonists of Pascha their cats are the objects of not only adoration but a projection of their feelings thatcannot survive in thishostile environment. We should remember the title, Pascha, is rather exotic for a Korean film. In the tradition of Christianity the word “pascha” evokes transition and the possibility of trespassing the border of death andresurrection. A beloved cat cannot be burnt, the same problem is with the remains of the unborn child. The Resurrection comes with the new kitten — the same projection of the hope to overcome the finality of death and the establishment of the immortal love.

The film’s characters live in a hostile environment.The lead, a screenwriter, is not young as her mother constantly reminds her.She is nearly in her forties and dating a youngster, a 17-year-old, about to become an adult. What about the future? Their parents must think rationally and they do. Anunborn child does not have any right to ruin the future life of the parents. The right of rationality, or even common sense, make this world safe and predictable. Is it not comparable with the world of cats thatbother first about the food provided by their owners? On the contrary, the young woman and her boyfriend are helpless because their feelings are totally unconditional. But maybe their helplessness marks a certain borderline between the world of the animals and the humans.

Sun-Kyeong Ahn’s film is rather cold and quasi-documentary in character. It reminded me of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s early feature films and The Decalogue (Dekalog, 1989-1990). The style avoids any sentimental effects but is, nevertheless, full of deep internal tension. It harmonizes with the presented problems and is very consistent from the first to the final shot. A really brave, courageous achievement.

Edited by Glenn Dunks