Silence and Soul

in 61st Venice Film Festival

by Massimo Causo

Lighter and lighter, as well as unbreakable, the cinema of Kim Ki-duk keeps on telling tales in which the characters define themselves more as ideas than as bodies. After “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring” (2003) and the bitter “Samaritan Girl” (2004, that won the Silver Bear Award for the Best Director at the 54th Berlin Film Festival), “Bin-jip” (“3-Iron”, 2004) confirms the talent of a director who produces, one after another, intense and sensitive works, always coherent with a poetic world made with clear desperation and serene detachment from the reality.

Hanging between the concreteness of the real world and the spiritual reality of its rootless and absolute characters, “Bin-jip” tells Tae-suk’s story, a young man who passes through Soeul’s suburbs, living secretly in the houses the owners left temporarily empty for the vacations. He comes in, tidies up, washes the underclothes, cooks, he takes a bath and looks at the family photograph album, he also sleeps and fixes the broken things…, in short he lives his life in the other peoples lifes, like a shadow present to the others absence.

Without his own story, Tae-suk doesn’t say a word, and he’ll never say one for the whole length of the film, even when he’ll take with him Sun-hwa, a young woman he found in her house, actually the unhappy (and mistreated) wife of a reach and insensible man. With her, the young man shares a silent love, driven from one house to the other, founded on a communication that arise from the loneliness and becomes mutual feelings.

Tae-suk and Sun-hwa are two “lovers” running away from the reality – that, in Kim Ki-duk’s cinema, is the condition necessary to the birth of a love – and their unity explicates a gestural expressiveness taken off from the real world, more and more ideal and absolute, like the daily rites the two fugitives made in each house they lived in.

At the end, the union of their souls is intercepted and broken from the police, that returns Sun-hwa to her husband and sends Tae-suk to prison, without understanding that the young man isn’t any more “a body”, but only “an idea”, a sort of ghost able to break his chains and to disperse himself in the world, and then to recover himself as a suggestion of love in the eyes of Sun-hwa.

Kim Ki-duk wins once more the world’s resistance and entrusts his characters – their wishes and their survival – to a level that goes beyond the simple reality of the things. In this sense, “Bin-jip” is another step forward in this director’s way: if before his characters suffered physically and spiritually the strength of their extraneousness in front of the world, now Kim Ki-duk shows that is able to offer them an exit towards a spiritual freedom, at least: “We are all empty houses, waiting for someone to open the lock and set us free”, as Kim Ki-duk writes on the Venice Film Festival catalogue…