AsianMovieWeb logo
3-Iron - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2004

Drama, Romance

Kim Ki-duk

Jae Hee
Lee Seung-yeon
Kwon Hyuk-ho
Ju Jin-mo
Park Dong-jin
Choi Jeong-ho
Lee Jong-su
Lee Ju-seok

Search AsianMovieWeb


Story: Tae-suk (Jae Hee) delivers leaflets, but only to find out, which apartments are deserted because its inhabitants are out of town, or not at home for whatever other reason. After that he breaks into these houses and spends a few days in there. He tries to soften his illegal acts by doing some kind of domestic work. He repairs broken objects, takes care of the laundry, tidies up etc.
One day, he breaks into the house in which Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) lives with her husband Min-gyu (Kwon Hyuk-ho), who mistreats her day after day. Tae-suk doesn't notice, that Sun-hwa is at home and takes care of his daily engagements in the stranger's apartment. When he sees Sun-hwa, he disappears as fast as possible. Nevertheless, he returns shortly afterwards, because he doesn't want to leave her alone with her husband. After he showed Min-gye, by means of a golf-club, what it feels like to be a victim, he leaves again. But not without Sun-hwa, who takes the opportunity to escape her sad life.
Alongside Tae-suk, even Sun-hwa now breaks into strange houses and spends the following days like that. The invisible bonds between them starts to grow stronger and stronger. But the police abruptly separates the two and Sun-hwa has to return to her husband…

Review: "3-Iron" was the first movie I saw by Kim Ki-duk and even after watching it for a second time it hasn't lost any of its magical power. As typical for the director's style the movie is minimalistic, philosophical and sometimes even contemplative. As opposed to some other works by Kim, the audience always stays right in the middle of events, without the strange feeling of being separated from the movie's world by some kind of surrealistic barrier. And that's exactly, what defines Kim's progress with regards to his previous works and is also what makes "3-Iron" such a likeable movie for everyone.

3-Iron - Film Screenshot 11

The movie is about a man, who sneaks into strange houses, where he only spends a short time. It's almost as if Tae-suk doesn't have a personality of his own. Like a ghost, only recognized by few, he tries to live through/via other people. He always has to take a picture of himself in these houses to prove to himself, that he still exists.
In that way (or in some other), you could interpret his behavior. There is a lot of interpretation left for the viewer. Tae-suk's longing for transparency, or to take it a step further, for death, is always apparent. Tae-suk is detached from the world we know and that's why we don't have a problem with actually not knowing anything about him. The one thing we do know is that he had a good education, that he is mechanically skilled and that he knows a thing or two about golfing.

3-Iron - Film Screenshot 12

Even Tae-suk's acquaintance with Sun-hwa doesn't keep him from going through the motions. We even find out that Sun-hwa has the same longings as Tae-suk and that's why the two of them start to break into houses together. But that doesn't mean, that Tae-suk is a bad person; he tries to put his actions into perspective by repairing a lot of things in those houses and by tidying up. For the audience, he is already isolated from the real world's legal system.
It's also interesting to see how Kim Ki-duk portrays the world. If you see the image the director illustrates, you can almost understand why Tae-suk wants to flee this world. There are husbands who beat their wives and corrupt policemen. The only really good persons left seem to be our two main characters, but at the same time, they don't seem to belong to this world anymore.

It's incredible how much emotion Jae Hee and Lee Seung-yeon can deliver only through a glance or a gesture. Because, as almost typical for Kim, his protagonists don't say a word throughout the entire movie. Not until the very last scene. But nevertheless, the two manage that the viewer can relate to them right from the beginning.
The love-story between them is very nice and portrayed realistically. Even though it might seem impossible, the movie manages it to offer us complex characters, despite the fact, that we don't really know anything about them. Only their behavior and their glances let us guess who these people really are.

3-Iron - Film Screenshot 13

The movie's atmosphere is calm and almost meditative, however, the pacing is always perfect. We are thrilled to know how the love-story between Tae-suk and Sun-hwa will end, because we know, that their lives the way they are right now, have no future. But "3-Iron" is much more positive than we could have expected. Needless to say that there is no typical happy end, but director Kim manages it, to create a warm and soothing effect on the viewer. The cinematography is kept quite simple, but that's also what fascinates. The music is very harmonic and especially the frequently used "Gafsa" by Natacha Atlas becomes a catchy tune, which perfectly captures the movie's melancholic and dream-like essence.
Needless to say, that Kim uses a lot of symbolism, as usual. For instance there is the golf-game or the puzzle-like mixed-up picture of Sun-hwa. Everyone who keeps his eyes open will find a lot of things worth interpreting. But on the other hand, you shouldn't mind, that we're confronted with some kind of an open end. The movie slides into a supernatural ending, but it is still up to the viewer to interpret the actions. As opposed to some other works by Kim, the ending is not frustrating at all, but rather appealing to the audience.

"3-Iron" is a wonderful drama, which has its strength in the subtle yet strong emotions. The actors convince with an incredible performance and the director knows how to tell his extraordinary story. He manages to use surrealism in a way, that the audience can easily handle it and enjoys interpreting it. In spite of the protagonists' detachedness of the world, the viewer still has strong bonds towards them.
One of the best subtle, calm dramas from Asia. "3-Iron" is incredibly touching, powerful and profound. Kim Ki-duk created a little masterpiece.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo