July 29, 2007


Kim Ki Duk’s films have a tendency to teeter between the bizarre and the beautiful but nothing prepares you for Time, his 13th feature. The first few minutes of the film are enough to rattle anyone.

The basic plot of the film revolves around a chirpy young woman who just can’t get over the fact that perhaps her boyfriend is bored with her. She keeps noticing that he constantly checks out other women, is cordial towards everyone but her and isn’t even aroused by her anymore. The man tries to convince her that she is nuts but it just doesn’t work. To save her relationship, the woman puts herself through extensive plastic surgery.

The woman just vanishes one fine day and all efforts on the man’s part to locate her fail. The woman returns but we don’t see her for she is always hiding and playing mind games with her boyfriend. Just when he’s about to get over her the woman decided to show up in her new avatar and lo and behold the man falls for her. The woman couldn’t be happier but the only thing that bothers her is the fact that the man still craves her former self. She decides to test him; she sends him a letter as the first one begging to allow her to return. The man, elated and confused, conveys to the second woman that the first one’s back and her wants to be with her; he has no clue that it’s the same woman. This action of his enrages the woman to no end for she can’t believe that her boyfriend would still desire her old self. She accuses him of using her, etc. and finally ends up meeting him with a mask covering her new face and strangely the mask is the face older woman. The man who is now on the edge decides to take off but not before telling her that a change in physical appearance eventually changes you as a person.

The film now takes a fantastic but nonetheless a weird turn when the man decides to prove his love to the woman by transforming himself. The doctor who performs both the operations assures the woman to wait for the boyfriend to return in a new form. Now living a reversed role, the woman goes through the same pangs as she looks at every man with expectant eyes. Time passes and the boyfriend does come back but only to play the same mind games; the woman by now has had enough and asks him to show up. The climax of the film has the woman running after someone who, she is convinced, is her boyfriend but fate intervenes and the man ends up dying in an accident. The film ends with on a note that states the universal fact that one has to be at peace with the inner self rather than be happy with the outer shell.

The first scene has shots of a surgeon’s knife cutting up a woman and the gut churning images of extreme makeover in progress will give anyone a queasy feeling. But Time is a love story albeit an unusual one and plays out like a perfect tragic love story confronting many questions about love. It’s also an interesting film from the aspect of dialogue, for it strangely has a lot of dialogue as opposed to his previous films. Time is a film that will invite extreme reactions. Many, especially Koreans, believe that with the passage of time Kim Ki Duk’s turning out to be some sort of misogynist and perhaps Time adds to the speculation but is it really so? Or could it just be an example of a director relentlessly doing his number and perhaps falling out, at times, with the capricious film fest mob?

Image Courtesy: www.koreansociety.org

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