Country : South Korea
Genre: Drama – Romance – Thriller - Fantasy
Running Time: 88'
Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Cast: Seung-yeon Lee, Hyun-kyoon Lee, Hyuk-ho Kwon, Jin-mo Ju
GHOUL RATING: 5-
STORY: Young Tae-Suk wanders through the apartments of people on vacation: for a while he enjoys their homes, doing small repair jobs and then leaves quietly, without stealing anything. His ghost-like hauntings of these homes are matched when he encounters a battered woman sulking in a lush, apparently uninhabited house. They become attracted to one another, but there are many obstacles for their unconvential affair: an angry husband, police, murder charges, golf balls...
REVIEW: People are limited by their environment but also by their own inner being. And yet they try to reach out into the world, into someone else's existence and make a meaningful contact in their own very peculiar way. In Kim Ki-Duk's films this contact is never verbal; never could the debased words establish a real communion between souls. The method can be violence (BAD GUY); it can be eroticism (SAMARIA); it can be sado-masochism (THE ISLE); it can be even silence (THE BOW) – but never, never words. This director distrusts words more than any other I can think of; and whatever they do, his characters almost never talk to one another. It is not because they have nothing to say. On the contrary, it is precisely that they have too much on their minds, things too important to convey for them to be dragged down in words. In a world in which every soap opera or 'Reality TV' person is ''madly in love'', in which feelings are all too easily labeled, Kim Ki-Duk's protagonists cherish their private world too much to even try to verbalize it. Words like ''love'', ''hate'', ''passion'', ''revenge'', and the like do not even BEGIN to describe the essence standing behind their motivations (often mysterious to themselves as well).
Such is the case with 3-IRON, Kim Ki-Duk's best work so far. It is best because here he manages to capture the elusive essence of complex emotions in such a pure, unadulterated manner that by the end of the film his characters become more ethereal, more mysterious than they were in the beginning. The two outcasts, outsiders in a world governed by money, power and violence, ''live'' their solitary lives of Kafkean detachment verging on non-existence: Sun-Hwa broods, silently rejecting her husband's brutishness (undiminished – or, one could argue, even augmented by his wealth and social status), while Tae-Suk leads a vicarious existence assuming, at least temporarily, other people's lives. Both of them are trying to diminish themselves – to hide from the outside world, to be too small to be noticeable – to become no one, to be nothing. These are the same sentiments that made Gregor Samsa metamorphose into a bug. But in contrast with Kafka's universe, in Kim Ki-Duk's there is also love. Often strange, unspeakable, indescribable, beyond the grasp of external observers – but none the less powerful or life-changing for that.
So, the two outcasts meet, and immediately form a microcosm of two. It is through silences that they speak, it is through looks that they touch, it is through music (the stunning, elegiac Oriental mood piece by Slvain repeated several times in the film) that they make love. Never has Kim Ki-Duk been so adept in using silence, or music, or sparse sounds from the outside world. Never has he been so lucky with actors as in this film: Hyun-kyoon Lee practically carries the film through his body language and his looks, making Tae-Suk an astonishing character – one of the most likable (while, at the same time mysterious) in recent cinema. He's immensely helped by Seung-yeon Lee's portrayal of an abused but undefeated wife who is brought to life through the contact with her own silent partner. Together they are alone against the others, and with the newly-found power of love they dissolve from this world.
3-IRON is pure poetry in film: a visual, aural and atmospheric treat unlike anything you've ever seen, a great existential love affair painted with subtlety (and occasional burst of violence) by one of the greatest masters of world cinema working today. Absolutely recommended for all those who do not mind their entertainment heady, sentimental, ambiguous and a bit slow-paced. If, however, your idea of entertainment is mostly fast-paced action, suspense/gore-filled horror or laugh-riot comedy, be warned that the 'entertainment' score for this film would probably be 3,5 or 4. But I guess that no one comes to a Kim Ki-Duk expecting the usual fun. For the lovers of the unusual, the score is certainly 5.