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DVD Review: The Isle

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One thing is for sure, when it comes to strange, surreal, cringe inducing films, no one does it quite like Asian filmmakers. This film is no exception. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started watching this film. I had read some good things about it in some forums that I frequent, seemed like an interesting horror type film with a touch of th bizarre, seemed right up my alley. So on a recent order from Hong Kong through DDDhouse.com, I ordered it from their cheap sale. This means, if I didn’t like it, I would only be out about $4-5. It is a region 3 disk, so most of you folks in my neck of the woods wouldn’t be able to play this disk, although I believe there is a region 1 version available. On to the movie.

What I expected was some type of horror film, what i got was rather slowly paced (not a bad thing) drama with some creepy moments. The setting is one I haven’t seen before, something of a fishing camp. There is a lake with small platforms floating on it with small enclosed cabins on them. People rent them and are taken to them by motorboat, and there they fish or do whatever else they wish. Hee-Jin (Jung Sue) is the mute woman who operates the business, delivering food and other, umm, services to her clientele. The story takes a turn when Hyun-Shik(Yoo-Suk Kim) rents a platform, with the possible intent of committing suicide. The reason for this desire we learn through a nightmare he has, he is hiding out due to something bad that he had done. The turn is that Hee-Jin takes an interest in this visitor. An odd love/hate relationship develops between the two, although one last suicide attempt ensues.

This attempt to kill himself is one of the most cringe inducing scenes I have ever witnessed on film. Do not read the rest of this paragraph if you do not wish to know. In an attempt to off himself, he swallows a fishing line with a cluster of fish hooks on the end and then attempts to pull it back out of his throat. Of course it is unsuccessful, and eventually leads to Hee-Jin’s use of fish hooks for another reason, not to be discussed here.

It is a strange film with a fluid, languid pace that works. The relationship is a sad one, we know he has a past for which he is distraught enough to want to kill himself, she on the other hand seems sad, but we know nothing of her past. Much can be inferred through her aloof, yet pained, expressions and lack of any vocal expression, save for one crucial moment later in the film. It is a nicely shot film with the various colored huts with mist floating up off the water. It is also a sad film with two people drawn to each other due to their shared histories of distress.

Due to it’s pacing and subject of relationships it reminded me a lot of Takashi Miike’s Audition, another slower paced film featuring a relationship between flawed people, of course the flaw is different, but they do have a basic resemblance of each other. Neither film is for everybody, but of you have a taste for the bizarre, this is definitely a film to track down.

Video. The transfer of this disk is not very good. Colors are desaturated and flat, there is a pervading softness to most of it, plus there is evidence of print damage. It is a shame too, I can just imagine how it would have looked had it been a better transfer. It is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 letterbox which appears to be OAR.

Audio. The audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo in it’s original language, Korean with Chinese and English subtitles. The audio track, like the video, is not that good, it is clear, but the level is low and lacks much in the way of dynamic range. It is suitable since the film is dialogue driven, although a surround track with sounds of the lake would have been nicely effective.

Extras.
All we have is a theatrical trailer for the feature, and a trailer for another film, Happy End.

Bottomline. A strange export from Korea, an interesting film featuring a rather twisted relationship. One worth seeking out if you are a fan of strange, bizarre, or Asian cinema.

Recommended.

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About Draven99

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Chris, good work. I’ve been waiting for this flick to arrive in the UK for some time now. It’s been held back on account of the BBFC want to cut the scenes of animal cruelty, and the distributors are fighitng for an uncut release. I tihnk in the end its gonna be cut by something like three minutes. Maybe this import is the way to go.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris

    Without a doubt, if you are region free, it is R3/NTSC, for $25HK it’s hard to go wrong even if you end up not liking it. I read somewhere that the UK release was to be trimmed by like 1.5 minutes or something like that. I was surprised by the animal cruelty in it. It is definitely an interesting movie.

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    The theme of The Isle seems to be jealousy or obsessive love.

    You refer to something bad that he has done. He has murdered his former lover out of jealousy.

    We see this pattern repeated when the mute woman murders the young prostitute because she wants the man for herself.

    I’m not sure why you compare this to The Audition. Both are movies where the women are involved in murders, however, in the Korean film, the woman pursues the man.

    In the Japanese film, the man is pursuing the woman, starting out with a deception. She is his ideal woman–demure, modest and submissive. But in the end, as is hinted at several times in the beginning sequences, we see that she is disturbed and these unreal qualities hide greater problems.

    There is an aspect of horror in The Isle, but it isn’t essentially a horror film as is The Audition. Some of Kim Ki-duk’s shots seem like standard poses from Asian comic books. There’s a sense of voyeurism and misogyny in Kim Ki-duk’s films that I have seen that I don’t feel necessarily exist in Takashi Miike’s.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris

    I am aware of what he had done in the past, often when I write I try to avoid some specific details so that people will see them themselves when viewing, it is a weakness in my writing. I’m still pretty much a rookie at the writing game.

    I made the comparison to Auditon primarily for the languid pacing. Both have a slow build up which I found effective, as opposed to a barrage of action or whatever.