Directed, edited, shot, photographed and acted by it’s subject Ki-Duk Kim, Arirang has not yet been released theatrically in it’s home country of South Korea but it was given it’s world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and has since been broadcast on Italian television.
The following review does contain some minor spoilers.
In 2008 Ki-duk Kim (director of 3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring) finished a movie entitled Dream. During production one of his actresses almost died whilst filming a hanging scene, ever since Kim was traumatized and on top of that he now had writer’s block. After three years of living in exile away from the film industry he decided to pick up a camera again, not only because filmmaking is his one true love but to help him approach, understand and overcome his traumatic experience during the filming of his last film aswell as get back into doing what he loves the most.
But what would he film? For he has no material…?
Instead, Kim decided to aim the camera at himself, delving deep into his own mind to understand his own values. This film is composed mainly of close up shots of Kim speaking back and forth with himself, he speaks on a variety of subjects from his filmography to the near-death experience of the actress on the set of Dream and all the while throughout every word he speaks you can see his thought process wandering, gaining momentum.
The audience follow his train of thought as he follows it himself – he sings the titular traditional song “Arirang” to himself over and over again without letting on it’s meaning or it’s significance, but the beauty of Kim’s work is undoubtedly his ambiguity and this continues that theme.
At two moments in the film there’s a knock at Kim’s door, but each time he opens up there’s no one there. A metaphor, perhaps, for Kim searching for something but being met with just pent up frustration and a lack of understanding. As the film draws to it’s close Kim picks up a gun and starts shooting people… or is he? Is this all a part of his imagination? Are we watching a documentary as we have been led to believe?
As I say, this is labelled as a documentary – but it’s part-documentary and part-drama and it plays out almost like a video diary. Whatever it can be labelled as, Arirang is an incredibly haunting film about a man trapped inside his own head trying to get out and despite how Kim treats his own work and his own mind, he is still a true visionary with a lot more to say.
I was already a huge fan of Ki-Duk Kim’s work prior to seeing this and now I once again eagerly anticipate his next film.