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Original Title:

South Korea 2011

Shortfilm, Mystery, Horror

Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-kyeong

Oh Kwang-rok
Lee Jung-hyun

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Night Fishing

Story: In a secluded area Oh Gi-suk (Oh Kwang-rok) sits down at a river and casts several fishing rods. It is a cloudy day and besides the tinkling of a few small bells and a little radio there is complete silence, almost spooky. In the middle of the night something big finally has taken Gi-suk's bait. Despite initial problems to get that thing on land he can soon examine his catch right in front of his eyes. It is a woman or more appropriately the body of a woman. However, it seems that she isn't that dead after all because when the fisherman has recovered from the shock the woman suddenly starts to talk with him. Is she actually a ghost? Why does she know so much about Gi-suk? She confronts the man with his demons that result from having left his family some time ago. Who is that woman and what secrets does the fisherman hide?

Review: Very early on "Night Fishing" already made quite some waves since it was shot entirely with an IPhone 4. And this by the director who brought us such masterpieces like "Oldboy" or "JSA". An interesting film experiment which Park tackled along with his brother Chan-kyeong. The result, however, is sobering. Apart from a good plot idea, an appealing creepy atmosphere and an interesting soundtrack "Night Fishing" simply doesn't convince as a good movie. It is cryptic, almost becomes spiritual at the end, but all in all it remains a strange movie that is simply too alienating for us to enjoy.

It seems that I need to start wondering if Park Chan-wook and myself have now gone seperate ways. Since his last installment in the "Vengeance"-trilogy "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" his movies simply couldn't appeal to me anymore. "I'm a Cyborg but that's Ok" was a huge disappointment for me and even "Thirst" couldn't excite me at all. Therefore, it maybe shouldn't come as a surprise that his short movie left me cold as well. It is as if a wall is denying the viewer emotional access to his works. While in Park's former works you could even sympathize with his characters that were morally located somewhere in a grey area we now don't care for his protagonists. At least I don't...

It has to be added that by some critics "Night Fishing" is regarded as a little masterpiece, though. Why that is completely eludes me. Because Park has now become a spokesperson for Apple products? Because he managed to at least deliver a somewhat appealing film with the very restricted technical means of the IPhone at hand? Despite that his movie still cost a hundredthousand dollars and he also had several lenses at hand for his mobile phone. Isn't that cheating in a way? A low-budget movie surely looks different. But Park may deserve the praise for succeeding in delivering a dismal creepy atmosphere with solely a mobile phone camera.

Washed-out colors, a suboptimal amount of frames per second and bad lighing are among the problems that naturally have to occur when filming with a mobile phone. Still, all of that can be listed as art. It's in fact surprising how much atmosphere Park Chan-wook and Chan-kyeong are able to build up in the beginning. Nonetheless, what's irritating is that the short movie starts like a music video. It remains a mystery what purpose the song at the beginning serves. Yet, music is important throughout the whole film. Lee Jung-hyun, who is already known in Korea for ther surrealistic music and music videos, treats us with some interesting songs as a shaman.

Shamanism also plays a major role in the movie. This means that we also get to see a few traditional rituals that only add to the surrealistic overall tone of the film. What we are supposed to do with that remains uncertain. Still, it's a fact that we get an insight look (so to speak) into an unusual world that lies between this world and the other. Thus, the fishing in the movie also has to be understood in this context. The fishing rod and line connect two worlds, without spoiling more than necessary, and this bridge makes two worlds collide in "Night Fishing" and eventually blend into one another.

The idea behind the short movie is fascinating. That this is an art movie is also apparent at all times. Moreover, the movie carries the unknown quite well which makes it work as a horror movie, yet the 30-minute running "Night Fishing" is too abstract and surrealistic in the end to be recommended without concern. Maybe Park Chan-wook simply doesn't work on a wavelength that overlaps with mine anymore. It is possible that I can't appreciate his kind of art anymore, because "Night Fishing" surely is art. Anyway, I prefer to watch "Oldboy" for a tenth time over this movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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