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Original Title:
Saibogujiman kwenchana

South Korea 2006

Comedy, Romance, Drama

Park Chan-wook

Lim Su-jeong
Rain/Jung Ji-Hoon
Choi Hie-jin
Lee Yong-nyeo
Oh Dal-su
Yu Ho-jeong
Kim Byeong-ok

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I'm a Cyborg but that's ok

Story: Young-goon (Lim Su-jeong) works in a factory, where she assembles radios. One day she hears a voice coming out from one of the radios, telling her to cut her wrist, put some cables in it and plug them in a socket.
Young-goon survives and is send to a mental hospital. She only talks to wending machines, her radio and fluorescent lamps, because she thinks that she is a cyborg. Moreover, she bears a great grudge against the men and women in white, as they took her grandmother, who believed to be a mouse, from her several years ago. Since that day Young-goon carries the false teeth of her grandmother with her, wanting to return them to her. However, the men in white won't let her and so the voice of her grandmother commands her to kill them all. Yet, Young-goon just can't do it, as she still has sympathy for humans.
Il-sun (Rain/Jung Ji-Hoon) is also a patient at the institution and thinks that he has the ability to steal the soul of others or at least their skills. He becomes interested in Young-goon, and eventually he gets asked by her to remove her sympathy. However, Il-sun has to deal with another problem, because as the girl thinks that she is a cyborg, she also hasn't eaten anything since weeks and soon will die, if he can't make her eat something...

Review: Park Chan-wook fans should avoid this movie. That "I'm a Cyborg but that's ok" would become a somewhat different movie was already clear from the beginning, which is not a bad idea at all. How else was Park supposed to continue after his great "Vengeance-Trilogy" if not with something new? A fresh idea was needed and the director eventually dabbles in making a romantic comedy. The end product, however, is one of the most disappointing movies of recent years and this although my expectations weren't that great anyway. Why is that so? Well, it surely isn't the fault of the great actors or the once again impressive looking pictures. It all has to blamed on a very shallow script, a very wacky world we never really feel attached to and an incredibly frustrating ending.

From an artist's point of view "I'm a Cyborg but that's ok" surely is a little masterpiece. Completely contrary to the cinematography in his movies "Oldboy" or "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" the pictures in this one all look very colourful, garish and joyful. It's nothing unusual in this world for the walls of a padded cell to be green. The flagstones of a corridor are all aranged in an artistic pattern and even the dining hall looks as if it was taken right out of "Alice in Wonderland". This is all very nice to look at, yet is also a bit alienating. This wouldn't be much of a problem since a good script or engaging characters could have easily introduced us to this exceptional world. Unfortunately, concerning these aspects the movie can't manage either to weave a bond to the viewer. This, however, really would have helped to take away the uneasiness we feel during some of the scenes and we also wouldn't have to scratch our heads in disbelief sometimes throughout the film.

In a short scene we see one of the patients' name plates being replaced. The name that could be read: Park Chan-wook. And so you have to ask yourself, even if this might just be an intended side-blow, if Park actually has lost it, eventually. His rom-com has nearly no substance, even though the film deseperately tries to convey its message by hook or by crook. The story is terribly chaotic and told without any structure, but the worst part is that the movie is supposed to be funny, yet just isn't most of the time. It all feels terrifyingly alienating, and that's all. Sure, sometimes the deadpan humour hits its mark, but for most of the part the humour just won't work out for the viewer and even misses to get through to the audience. Overall, even "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" was funnier than Park's newest work and that's saying something.
It's almost as if the filmmakers lost sight of the most important things and just concentrated on bringing as many wacky and beautiful pictures on screen as they could. Well, mission accomplished for that matter, but the price that has been paid was way too high.

Somehow it seems as if the movie itself doesn't know where it wants to go. We accompany Young-goon on her cheery trip through madness, which doesn't seem to follow any worldly rules, anymore. We get to see the world as she sees it or get a glance on it from Il-sun's perspective, which in a way might be fascinating, but also makes it very difficult to get into the movie. Backed up by some well inserted special effects Young-goon assaults the nurses' room and shoots down anyone she sees in best "Terminator" style. Here Park once again can't hide his typical handwriting of sudden bursts of violence, or his strong preference for the theme of "sympathy" as this is what Young-goon first has to get rid of in order to start her mission.
There are also a bunch of other odd scenes, for instance socks that can make you fly if being rubbed against each other, and a female patient who exercises in yodeling as she dreams of living in the alps one day. But it gets one better: K-Popstar Rain also proves his yodeling-skills in a little singing performance - and he really isn't bad at it!

Concerning the actors there is not a single one miscast. With her coloured blond eyebrows and her wig-like hairstyling I almost didn't recognize Lim Su-jeong ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "Sad Movie"). It seems as if wild hair stylings are one of those tics of director Park...
Lim plays her part with the necessary deadpan wackiness and also knows how to display more subtle emotions between the lines.
The achievements of K-Popstar Rain are really impressive, too, as he plays the role of the thief with a good amount of humour and charisma. An outstanding performance for his first role in a movie.
It's just sad, that their characters aren't well elaborated, the way they ought to be. We only get to know little about the background of their clinical pictures. Presumably, it is the absence of a mother that drives them into their own mental world. There are some other hints scattered throughout the film, for instance the fact that Young-goon's grandmother played her part in making the girl believe that she is a cyborg, but in the end it's here where to movie falters and lacks some serious in-depth information. Il-sun's background is a little bit more clear. He defines himself through the abilities of other people, puts on different masks and fears to just become invincible one day and vanish into a tiny little spot. Thus, there are some interesting infos you can get out of the movie, if you take your time to analyze things, but it could have been more.

Ultimately, the story proves to be unusually shallow, the love story between the two main characters is only convincing to a certain degree, but the worst thing is the ending. The finish is just hitting the screen unexpected and too sudden. Some questions are raised and don't get an answer, which however isn't as bad as one might think, as it's easy to answer them for oneself. Still, after finishing the movie you'll just be incredibly dissatisfied and frustrated. There is nothing you can take and keep for yourself from this movie, which is something we just had expected otherwise, as Park's other works just deliver this special something we are missing here. What's especially bad is that "I'm a Cyborg but that's ok" is trying the be a comedy, yet is so wacky that nearly not a single one of the jokes gets through to the audience, which altogether with the alienating style of so many scenes just proves to be the death blow for this flick.
I still see myself as a big Park Chan-wook fan, but (or therefore) I will remove "I'm a Cyborg but that's ok" from my notional list of Park-works. If it wasn't for the beautiful and unconvential pictures, as well as some nice ideas and their implementation, my frustration even could have misguided me into giving this film a rating even worse.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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