Toronto: A Look At ‘Arirang’

While directing his film previous film “Dream” in 2008, an incident involving an actress having a close encounter with death on set seems to have transformed Ki-duk. Although he rushed to saved the girl, he was later found crying alone. Since then, Ki-duk has retreated to the hills – his only company is a feline that he feeds his table scraps.

This film is as minimalist as it gets. Kim Ki-duk turns on the camera and asks a barrage of questions under a simmering yellow light, the doing his best to answer them. His contemplations on the film industry, fellow peers in the industry and death are sometimes clearly stated and infused with the wisdom that only a seasoned filmmaker can share.

Other times, however, more can be learned from Ki-duk’s appearance than what is said, sometimes appearing exasperated, angry and teetering on the brink of insanity. Unintelligible at times, the audience can’t help but feel some degree of empathy for the frustration this man is undergoing.

Although the film is just Kim Ki-duk and his camera, for the most part, there is some interesting technique use. Ki-duk calls his movie a drama, rather than a documentary. In any case, it’s an existential film that reflects on internal dialogues. The filmmaker is in a dark place: he’s taken responsibility for the near-death of his actress – if he hadn’t been making his art, the incident would have never happened.

But the one thing that seems to have gotten him through the experience is reciting the song “Arirang”, which has helped him ‘understand human beings, thank nature, and accept his life.’ He sings the song’s lyrics several times throughout the movie.

This film takes lots of patience to get through. It’s challenging and, the pay-off may not be there for some people. It’s an unconventional movie, but Ki-duk has some clever tricks up his sleeve, for example, he creates a character out of his silhouette, films himself editing parts of the movie, and provides visual metaphors he for what he’s expressing.

Ultimately, the film is about a person living his mundane life of isolation with a head full of conflicting thoughts. I can understand why some could write it off as boring, but it’s not your typical film – it’s important to go into the film with few expectations.