Tae-suk (Jae Hee) is a lonely biker breaking and entering other people’s houses. He is not a thief: He just lives in their homes and when it’s time to move on, he does. That usually means the owners are back or the place just got old. So whenever that happens he just looks for a new apartment. One day however he decides to crash at a place where one of the inhabitants is still there, only he doesn’t notice her. Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) is an equally lonely, but lovely, housewife living in a luxurious house with an abusive husband (Kwon Hyuk-ho). Sun-hwa is intrigued when she notices that Tae-suk isn’t there to rob her. She decides to join him in his adventurous lifestyle. What could possibly go wrong? I don’t know, but according to some guy’s law “Anything that can go wrong usually goes wrong”.
Written and directed by South Korean auteur and master filmmaker Kim Ki-duk 3-Iron won the Silver Lion at the 61st Venice Film Festival. In 2012, after Kim voiced his feelings about the importance of his work being critically well-received, in his documentary Arirang, they finally got it right and he won the Golden Lion for Pietà. 3-Iron fits in the art-house director’s catalogue perfectly, dealing with some familiar themes such as voyeurism, cleansing and solitude. Kim manages to create an engaging story and relatable characters with a minimal use of dialogue and no voice-overs. Also largely absent from the film is a traditional film score or soundtrack, safe for to great tracks he choses. Nevertheless, the film never feels dull or boring. Kim is able to draw the viewer in thanks to an amazing, romantic love story, incredible performances and the inviting atmosphere of his films.
There is no room for judgment in a Kim Ki-duk film. He loves all of his characters. Just as he is convinced that there is no white without black, he knows in his heart that there is no evil without good. The two main characters never exchange a single word on screen, yet I totally buy that they are in love. The film is poetic and sweet and charming, like only a Kim Ki-duk film can be. It is almost completely satisfying in terms of plot coherence and logic, but the end is where things get tricky. Some have argued that we shouldn’t view it “literally”, but interpret what happens. While those theories are interesting, I prefer to take the film at face value and try not to read too much into it this time. There is already a lot of subtext going on with out all that. What I find most interesting is how Jae Hee’s character always finds something to fix, wherever he goes. Clearly his main concern is to “fix” Sun-hwa, but as the film shows: We are all broken, but there’s still hope somewhere out there. We just have to keep searching.
Rating on Second Viewing
(with my brother, on our Sony Bravia)
9.5 out of 10