DIR: Park Hong-min (in attendance) | Real D 3D | South Korea | 2011 | 97:00 mins | Korean with English subtitles
Saturday, Nov. 10th 11:45am | The Royal
A Fish, Park Hong-min‘s feature debut, tells you very little within the first 20 minutes. A well-dressed man sits in a car as a traffic cop takes down his driver’s license. The same man sits in a car while he receives a call from his employer, and we learn that this man is Professor Lee, who has cancelled class without warning and possibly just quit his job. A detective then calls to say he believes that he has found Lee’s missing wife. The two men go on the road to the island of Jindoo, where she’s believed to be living. On the road to Jindoo, the inexplicably giggly detective details his various cosmetic treatments to Lee 50,000 won for a bad perm, 2 million per tooth implant while telling Lee that his wife is taking invocatory rites to become a shaman.
Their story interweaves with the story of two fishermen who are at sea. Their scenes are shot with limited variety and a fog encompasses their boat, so it appears that their story is locked in one place and time. We learn very little about the two fishermen themselves but their debate on the consciousness of fish thematically connects with Lee’s story when we see that part of the shaman ritual involves pulling drowned souls from the sea back onto earth.
Part psychological thriller, part philosophical consideration, A Fish’s sparse exposition only emphasizes how much of the story is expressed with elements other than dialogue, foregrounding the actors’ slightest expressions, the editing, the special effects, and the incredible sound. Once the resaturant owner addresses Lee about his wife, the fog misting out at the bottom of the shot makes you wonder: what genre are we in? And when the two fishermen catch a fish that appears to be speaking to them, you really wonder: what genre is this? The film never really answers you, but instead makes you re-consider how the details we cling to during times of ineffable grief and suffering can construct and distort our hold on reality.
Phuong Nguyen writes from Toronto, ON, where she received an MA in English Literature, qualifying her to write this bio.