Time (Korean)

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Director: Kim Ki-duk
Starring: SUNG Hyun-ah, HA Jung-woo
RunTime: 98 mins
Genre: Korean Drama
Rating: M18 (Some Sexual Scenes)

(This review is contributed by my colleague Patrick)

While always adhering religiously to metaphors and motifs in his films, Korean director Kim Ki Duk’s 13th film “Time” takes a turn for the obvious. Brutally honest and grim, Time gradually peers away the layers of superficial beauty that lies behind the face of plastic surgeries and explores the possibility of the ephemeral love among South Koreans. Kim Ki Duk holds nothing back in this film, and offers audiences the bare truth on the drawbacks of plastic surgery among South Koreans, where it is said that a substantial number of them go under the knife every year.

At the heart of the film lies a very simple plot. See-hee is very much in love with Ji Woo, to the point of being insecure of their relationship. And Ji Woo does reciprocate her love. However, tragically, both See-hee’s and Ji Woo’s perception of love are very different. While See-hee’s love for Ji Woo is very physical, Ji Woo’s love comes in the form of emotional bonding and trust.

This insecurity in See-hee soon escalates to the point where she hates and dislikes her body, longing for a permanent change. Jealousy soon results whenever she saw Ji-Woo talking to svelte and statuesque females who possess the slightest tendency to make advances towards him. This obsession is especially directed towards a specific waitress whom Ji Woo has an interest in in a particular cafe.

See-hee’s salvation comes in the form of plastic surgery. Without bidding Ji Woo farewell, she disappears herself, goes under the knife and appears before Ji Woo again six months later, with the same name but a different face. What’s more interesting is that she has intentionally replaced the waitress that Ji Woo has a fancy for in her bid to create a fantasy scenario whereby Ji Woo will fall in love with her all over again.

Kim Ki Duk’s direction is excellent, moving from happy moments to despair with ease. The film itself seems to serve as the symbol for unrequited love, which is what this film is about. After See-hee’s plastic surgery, the relationship between Ji Woo and See-hee are at times ecstatically satisfying while at times excruciatingly painful. It is indeed unbearable to watch such a loving couple falling apart as the film progresses. But the portrayal is as realistic as it can be about real-life couples who splinter due to different expectations.

Plastic surgery, while meant to be a saviour for many an average-looking lady, becomes a third party that splits the couple in this film. This could probably be the reality in Korean society today, and few directors can be as brutal and direct as Kim Ki Duk who delivers the message with a strong, in-your-face punch.

Time - Brutal and direct

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