"In Between Days": A Waste Land Between You and Me By Gabriele Barrera

in 56th Berlinale

by Gabriele Barrera

The black on the screen. A noise of steps. Finally, a close-up of a little Korean girl. She walks at a good pace in a waste land, an alien land: the foreign country where she lives, now, and where she’s immigrated with her mother. A place of loneliness and sorrow. And now, she strides on the snow. The noise of the steps increases. Quickly, in the direction of a foreign school. The eye of the camera follows the girl always at close range, like in the movies of Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (Rosetta, 1999) for example. But, in the meantime, the camera waves in the space and gives expression to the state of the uneasiness and of the mental sorrow of the girl, with free and unusual movements, like in Millennium Mambo (2001) by Hou Hsiao-hsien.

A very interesting, an absolutely rigorous style which characterizes from the beginning all the sequences of In Between Days (USA/Canada 2006), the first full-length film directed and written and also edited by So Yong Kim. For this reason, the attention of the spectators is slowly captured by So Yong Kim’s In Between Days (presented in the Forum section of the 56th Berlin Film Festival) and by her cinematographic paradox: the total simplicity of style and language, a style that shows clearly and in an exemplary way the big complexity of the sentiments and the sensations of all the immigrated people.

“The inspiration for In Between Days came from my teenage years”, says director So Yong Kim, a little and bashful young Korean girl perhaps like the protagonist of her movie. “It came from my teenage years of growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, raised by a single Korean mother. When I began writing In Between Days, I used that experience as the basis to build a backdrop for the characters. My intention in making In Between Days is to share an immigrant story that is personal and honest. With that in mind, I tried to create an intimate character study of a young girl who is coming of age adapting to life in a new country”. She directed her first feature film in Toronto last winter, after a not so long, but very peculiar experience as director, writer, producer and also composer.

And so, Aimie, the little Korean immigrant teenager, observes the world in two different ways. First we see the world of every day: Aimie’s eye can’t view the waste land of her isolation — also in the special circle of the Americanized Korean girls. For this reason she views only and exclusively her best-friend Tran, the only source of warm affection in the cold country of her loneliness. The cinematographic style follows her denial of a spacious view (the space of the anxiety and the eradication), with the stylistic choice of the close-up. But Aimie has fallen in love with Tran, she tries to express her feelings for him, and she’s scared of losing their friendship. The misunderstood affection for each other creates a delicate relationship: an ingenious allegory of the delicate relations between the normal life in a foreign country of the immigrated people (the friendship) and the strong desires of integration (the love). This is the way of the reality.

The second way is Aimie’s dreams: Aimie’s eye can view, finally, the waste land of her home-sickness. And Aimie is homesick for her country and her father. In her dreams she talks with her absent father. On the screen, the spectator views a crystallized landscape with a creative composition of big pixels. Another brilliant allegory of the frustration (the still-images) of the same desires and dreams.