Kim Ki-Duk

Kim Ki-Duk

Born in South Korea in 1960, Kim Ki-duk’s career as an artist has a great deal in common with his fragile, tormented characters. His films, firmly anchored in his country’s history, speak a universal language and explore terrains familiar to us all: guilt and redemption, loneliness and obsession, the search for love and subsequent disappointment. Broken bodies and shattered spirits parade across the screen, misfits torn asunder like Korea itself. Kim Ki-duk mistrusts dialogue, knowing as he does that language is just part of what makes us whowe are. To him, the physical body, nature, even objects have their own dialects, reason why the characters in films like 3-Iron, The Isle and The Bow establish non-verbal codes of communication that, more often than not, entail bodily violence. It is precisely this element that pushes his cinema out of the mainstream and into the domain of controversy. Silence, the power of the image over thespoken word are part and parcel of the philosophical, religious and artistic traditions of the East, butexposure to physical abuse, mutilation, sadomasochism and power games played out on thehuman body destabilizes this contemplative aesthetic, giving way to gut-wrenching melodrama thathas no qualms about provoking the spectator. he director’s trust in the image more than likely originates from his art studies in France. And hissuspicion of words is perhaps associated with the social marginalization of his characters, who liveon physical or ethical borderlines, or sometimes both, and are either unwilling or unable to articulatea coherent narrative about themselves. Characters like those in Address Unknown or Pietà that areconstantly changing and redefining themselves. Any sense of stability they achieve is illusory,fleeting. They have no parents, no past and the future ahead of them waxes uncertain. Kim Ki-duk’scinema in general, and many of his films in particular, progress from realistic to dreamlikelandscapes that afford an escape from the oppression of daily life. A prolific, contemporary director, Kim Ki-duk has earned the loyalty of Western audiences by virtueof the force and conviction of his mise-en-scènes, his characters’ moral autonomy and the way here formulates existential questions that directors such as Martin Scorsese, Abel Ferrara, Paul Schrader and Carl Theodor Dreyer have posed before him. Questions related to the most profound dilemmas we face as human beings. In tone with the skepticism of our times and the traumatichistory of his country, Kim Ki-duk always leaves the answers open-ended, provisional, to becompleted by an actively engaged spectator.