Thursday, September 11, 2014
Yes, Moebius features a scene in which a teenage boy has his penis cut off. By his mother, no less, who is angry at her husband (the boy's father) for having an affair. When she is unsuccessful at castrating her philandering partner, she exacts her revenge by taking it out on their only child.
That's not a spoiler. While most films in the contemporary wave of Korean revenge thrillers would build and build before finally culminating in this heinous, crazy act, Kim Ki-duk is so hardcore that his fucking movie starts there. The castration is just the jumping off point for a story that takes a number of unexpected turns, including a sort-of romance between the son and a pretty shop owner, who is also the woman having the affair with the father. She's played by Lee Eun-woo, the actress who also plays the (literally) castrating mother. And just in case it sounds to Oedipal to have the teenage boy (Seo Young-ju) becoming sexually obsessed with a woman who looks exactly like his mother, don't worry. Things are going to get even darker and weirder than that when mom comes back into the picture in Act Three.
Oh, and did I mention that not one word of dialogue is spoken in the film?
That's right. There are no subtitles, no dialogue cards (like in a silent film). I think one character whispers in another's ear at one point, but don't quote me on it. The only sounds the characters make are variations on painful grunts and orgasmic moans, which I suppose is telling about Moebius' chief concerns. Yet somehow it all works, probably because this is a movie about people unable to express themselves in the ways they would like. That repression extends even to their conversations, their emotions withheld until bursting out in whimpers, moans or cries.
Not that the actors give any indication that it's funny or absurd. All three of the leads commit completely to the bit and give performances that are tortured and intense. Lee has a moment during the film's absurdist peak that should be...I don't even know...repellent? Ridiculous? And yet her performance is so filled with pain and (ahem) maternal love that it's incredibly moving. See the film and you'll understand what an accomplishment this is. When you consider that she's playing two completely different characters -- and yet finding the similarities in the (ahem) function they serve -- it's all the more impressive.
Moebius is available for download on iTunes, YouTube, PlayStation, Vudu and Xbox.