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Moebius - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2013


Kim Ki-duk

Jo Jae-hyeon
Lee Eun-woo
Seo Yeong-joo
Kim Jae-hong

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Story: A family father (Jo Jae-hyeon) cheats on his wife (Lee Eun-woo) with a convenience store owner (Lee Eun-woo). The wife finds out about it and even the son (Seo Yeong-joo) catches his father committing adultery. Being beside herself with rage the wife attempts to castrate her husband, but he manages to defend himself. Therefore, she goes into the room of their sleeping son and castrates him instead. Also, she makes sure that an operation to reattach the severed extremity is impossible. The wife disappears and the father goes to a doctor in order to get castrated and serve his son as a donor. He looks through the internet for possibilities, but apparently a surgery doesn't promise any good results, yet. At the same time the son visits the convenience store owner and builds up some sort of relationship to her. Eventually, she gets raped by some boys and owing to unfortunate circumstances the son finds himself forced to participate in the raping, too, even though he isn't even physically able to. Meanwhile, the father has found out through research that it is possible to have an orgasm by inflicting pain on oneself...

Review: Korea's provocateur par excellence is back: Kim Ki-duk. If you believed that Kim couldn't raise the bar of exploring the perverse anymore you haven't seen "Moebius" yet. Now, undoubtfully everything is possible when this director is at work. The movie crossed the line to such an extent that it effectively wasn't allowed to be screened at any cinema in its home country. Only after Kim cut down his film two times he got the green light. Wait a minute, does that mean the movie would have been even more dreadful to watch? Well, mainly it was an incestuous scene that has been cut, but that doesn't necessarily stand as the worst part of the movie (in the eyes of Korean censors it did, though). Which inevitably raises the question, what can be worse than that? Ok, if you really need to know...

Moebius - Film Screenshot 11

Even one of the first scenes is as shocking as only Kim Ki-duk manages to get. The mother castrates her child and eats (!) the severed body part. If you succeeded in not feeling sick after this, you need to brace yourself for scenes of rape, sadism, masochism and incest. Kim's "The Isle" already showed us that the director equates physical lust, the sexual act with violence and sadism. But this time he exponentially pushes his notion to the extreme. Physical pleasure takes place by inflicting pain (on oneself). This actually might make sense, if there is no other option to gratify one's lust. And some men (or women) may have already gone beyond the point at which sex is just pleasant and yet or in fact in that might have found pleasure. But Kim makes a big mistake.

Moebius - Film Screenshot 12

That is featuring extremely repetitive scenes of inflicting pain and at some point you just can't bear it any longer. If you actually managed to endure the gruesome pictures of mutilation up to that point that is. Eventually, it simply becomes tiring. A little bit of incest doesn't seem like a big deal compared to that. In the end Kim Ki-duk reduces people completely to being slaves to their lust and the animal within. Thus, it's only fitting that the movie, as if wanting to emphasize it, goes without any dialogue, as was already the case with "3-Iron". At least, Kim is a master in telling his stories without a single line - some critics even think that the dialogues in his movies are the worst part of them - and he does so very well. "Moebius" is concisely told, the constant scenes of sadomasochims put aside, and leaps in time are worked in well.

A big minus is the humor. You can't take this drama serious at all times and it actually wasn't the director's intention either. Some laughs are moving on a strange thin red line between absurd and black humor, but everything around it is too dark and detestable in order to really make laughing a possibility. When it comes to Kim it's safe to say that by those laughs he wanted to put a mirror in front of society, stating: "Look, that's you!" But no matter how I look at it I simply don't feel addressed and this even though I'm absolutely willing to dive into the abyss of human psyche and also look for it within oneself. "Moebius", and this despite all the director's provocation, just can't reach me, contrary to most of Kim's other works.

Moebius - Film Screenshot 13

Actually, "Moebius" can be seen as a continuation of "Pieta", but whereas latter one offered catharsis to some degree "Moebius" denies it. Instead it rather continues to poke in the viewer's wound with a knife. Without too much spoilers: Is mankind supposed to give up its sexual desire, because only bad things result from it, and should everyone enter a buddhist temple to attain true peace? A pretty shallow message. Furthermore, "Moebius" includes numerous obvious hints at other works of Kim, the golf club and two lovers that kiss each other over the shoulder of a third person ("3-Iron"), the delicately hand-crafted gun ("Arirang"), the incest scenes ("Pieta") an so on. The actors may put in some extraordinary efforts, Lee Eun-woo in a double role as the mother and lover of Jo Jae-hyeon from Kim's "Bad Guy", but the movie dives so deep into the abyss of the perverse (and sadly doesn't bring anything valueable from down there) that it eventually is too appalling and intricately absurd, partly even implausible (even for Kim's standards). That is a constant risk with Kim Ki-duk, but mostly he successfully sails around those problems. Maybe for some people "Moebius" may achieve that once again, but in my book it takes more than being provocative alone - and I'm not saying that out of meaningless prudery - to make a good movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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