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이끼 (Moss)

Well, it’s been a while since I saw a Korean film that I couldn’t quite understand with my limited Korean. (Of course some lines go over my head, but I usually get the gist.) This film, on the other hand, frustrated me like mad. I think part of the reason–probably because it’s based on a comic book–is that there is a lot of non-action action. What I mean by that is, there are a lot of sequences that serve the same function as action sequences, but which actually feature characters either standing still or movingly only a little. Frankly, the last thirty minutes–or what’s what it felt like–featured four characters standing in a room, narrating flashbacks and shouting at one another.

Speaking of shouting, that was one of three modes of interaction common in the film: shouting, mild (but subtly hateful) speech, and violence. It really was limited to those three modes. Maybe, again, it’s an artifact of the source material, I’m not sure.

Not that I didn’t “get” what the film was about, in a very general way. It all but bangs the viewer over the head with that, though since that’s spoilery I’ll put it in the extended post, so you can continue on only if you want to. The film is, of course, about the dictatorship era, and its brutal ending. Basically, a cop (ie. pseudomilitary figure) enlists the help of criminal thugs and a clergyman to build… a new village. (For anyone who doesn’t know Korean history, this is a direct invocation of former dictator Park Chung Hee’s Saemaeul (“New Village”) development project.) The cop sets up a village which is secret from the rest of the world, though it has the tacit acceptance of higher-level political figures (someone in the prosecutor’s office tries to keep the cover-up going) and essentially brutalizes a community, living in a house on a hill that overlooks the village. His henchmen — two murderers — one a former pimp — and a moron, are given permission to sexually “use” a local woman who is a faithful follower of the clergyman and the victim of rapists. At a crucial point, it is revealed that the chief of the local police is the offspring of the now-elderly cop.

Which brings us to 2010, and how the protagonist — son of the recently murdered clergyman — deals with the mystery, the threat, and everything else going on.

Perhaps the comic book has more to recommend it, but I felt as if I was being banged over the head for two hours of very static imagery, and of people shouting at one another. I can think of several drinking games that could be made for watching the film, in any case. I suppose if I could follow the dialog, I might have gotten more out of it. I wonder, though, if it would have been more, or just more of the same?

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