“Moebius” is a bizarre but compelling film full of the extreme behaviors committed by its twisted and tortured characters who are intertwined with each other in a truly disturbing way. This is not an easy film to watch at all, and you will have to brace yourself before watching it. I vaguely knew what I would get because this is a new film by South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, who has jolted us with many striking moments of morbid brutality in his films, but even I was shocked by the dark, brutal power inside its masochistic presentation of sex and violence. Compared to that, its last scene looked like a peaceful light at the end of the hopeless tunnel, no matter how confounding it was to me and a few audiences at the screening at last night.
Its story revolves around a barren isolated household consisting of three family members. There is a sense of icy resentment between Father(Cho Jae-hyeon) and Mother(Lee Eun-woo), and there is a good reason for that. Father is currently having an affair with a woman running a small shabby shop in the neighbourhood, and, boiling with anger inside her, Mother looks like a mute avenging angel ready to do anything to stop him – and punishing him.
Son(Seo Young-joo), who does not care much about his father’s infidelity or the conflict between their parents while silently leading his daily life in this loveless environment, suddenly becomes a victim of the marital war between his parents. During one night, Mother decides to do something drastic to punish her husband, and, after her attempt is failed, her irrepressible anger is quickly directed to another male in the household – her son.
The movie drew lots of attention and controversy due to the conflict with the director/writer Kim Ki-duk and the Korea Media Ratings Board. It initially got Restricted rating from the board, which is virtually a kiss of death to any film to be released in South Korean theaters considering there is no theater for that rating, but, after the director modified the original version with several cuts, the movie was eventually approved by the Board with 18 rating, and now it is finally released in South Korean theaters in this weekend.
Although its more graphic details of extreme violence were cut during this progress, the movie still can shock us during its unspeakable moment involving a certain part of male body. After committing a more unspeakable act which will certainly make your eyes rolling in disbelief(I don’t dare to talk about that), Mother walks out of the house, and Father and Son are left with devastation and guilt while not knowing what to do with a huge damage left behind her.
They try to continue their life, but that is not easy for both of them. Son always feels shame about what happened to him, and he is cruelly bullied by his schoolmates when one of them comes to discover his secret by coincidence. Father tries to find a way to give back a normal life to his son, but he becomes frustrated to know that he may have to wait for a while to get what he wants. The more he sees his son’s miserable state, the more he becomes tormented day by day.
The story becomes more bizarre as Son gets involved with his father’s mistress. Because she is also played by Lee Eun-woo, what we get here is a twisted sight of Oedipal attraction, and the movie pushes it to a more extreme and disturbing area as Son tests an unconventional method to get alternative sexual pleasure for him. After several painful but rewarding trials, he goes further with her, so we later see a really weird masochistic threesome scene involving a knife stuck on the right shoulder of one character. How all three characters get one hell of sexual pleasure is something you have to see for yourself to believe it.
All these weird and violent moments in the film are handled with conviction and seriousness as much as required. There is almost no dialogue in the film(so you won’t need the subtitle for watching the film), and the characters are defined by their behaviors which in turn fueled by the dark, destructive animalistic emotions which probably reside somewhere deep inside our human nature. There is always a raw power behind its stoic approach to its volatile and sensational materials, and the result is something we cannot help but observe even when the characters cross over many moral and ethical lines during their no-hold-barred abnormal deviations.
Three main performers go all the way with their director in their uncompromising wordless performances. Cho Jae-hyeon, who previously collaborated with Kim Ki-duk in “Address Unknown”(2001) and “Bad Guy”(2001), is relentless in his depiction of a tormented dad willing to pay any price for restoring his son, and Lee Eun-woo deftly goes back and forth between her two different roles. Seo Young-joo, a 15-year-old actor who gave a breakthrough performance in “Juvenile Offender”(2012) in last year, holds his own place between his two adult co-actors, and the remarkable range of emotions shown in his brave performance in this film confirms that he is definitely a young talent to watch.
Many of Kim Ki-duk’s films strike us hard with their gut-wrenching violence, but there is also a spot of surprising tranquility amid extreme human behaviors, and “Moebius” is no exception. Around the middle of the story, we encounter a mysterious figure repeatedly bowing to a Buddha figure in the shop as a part of his private ritual, and you may be surprised when the identity of this figure is eventually revealed. I don’t think I wholly understand its meaning or purpose, and it may be a part of the morbid black humor inside the story, but I must say it was nice to see a gentle human smile dawning upon the face after so many dark, ruthless moments of human violence.