Korean Filmmaker Kim-Ki-Duk is applauded worldwide for his eccentric cinema-house. He tells the most unusual stories with precision and charm of a master magician. But, as much as he is admired for filmmaking he is equally infamous for violence in his films. "3-Iron" (2004) though does not have a cruel, grisly hardcore violence as in filmmaker's previous movies like "The Isle," "Crocodile," it is not without its own dips into viciousness.
In "3-Iron"s case violence comes in three forms: with a sense of entitlement - a man’s repeatedly beating his younger wife; a guard’s repeatedly beating a young prisoner who everyone knows is innocent of the crime; and assaults with hard-driven golf balls. Yet, overall, this really is a gentler film by Kim, its style Bressonian, especially with its elliptical nature and its emphasis on sounds puncturing silence. He has used some of the techniques of horror - sudden jolts, suspenseful set-pieces, enigmatic point-of-view shots - to relate a touching and improbable love story.
Tae-suk (Jae Hee), the hero of Kim's remarkable film "3-Iron" aka Bin-Jip (Empty House) has a strange air of quiet, contemplative contentment. A beautiful young man with a new BMW motorcycle, he does not participate in the ordinary hustle and bustle of contemporary life. Instead, he goes from door to door of stranger's homes, putting flyers in the keyholes, and then, later, breaks into the homes where the flyer has not been removed. He exists peacefully in the shadows of other people's lives, cooking himself simple meals, taking long baths, and watching television.
He is not a thief. Quite the opposite, while residing in these temporarily vacated homes, he does the tenant's laundry and repairs broken items. This way of life seems to work well, but becomes complicated when he encounters an abused married woman Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon Lee) in a luxurious house he had broken into. She is clearly in need of healing, and Tae-Suk is a fine caretaker. He dresses his prodigy in innocent, child-like pink, cuts her hair and prepares her food. But before long, we discover that he is not nearly the carefree man he first appeared to be. First, he uses '3-Iron' golf club to smash gulf balls into the sunken chest of Sun-hwa's abusive husband. Later, he rigs a golf ball to a wire, and hits the ball round and around a tree. Never before has the golf stroke revealed itself to be an act of unadulterated hate and violence.
The most amazing aspect of Kim's film is that neither of the central characters talk. They acknowledge each-other's existence, fall in love wordlessly, and it absolutely works. Never does this unusual plot device ring false-- perhaps because other characters do, in fact, converse. Tae-Suk and Sun-hwa's faces are so expressive, their gestures perfect, their performance so flawless that the absence of talk almost seems to prove the richness of their love. When Sun-hwa finally speaks, her word does not disappoint.
"3-Iron" is mesmerizing with a finely detailed and familiar world even as they are governed by sometimes enchanted, sometimes sinister dream logic. Director/Producer/Writer/Editor Kim, for his part, engages in a similarly tricky sleight of hand that nonetheless feels like magic. It won him international critics’ prizes at Venice and San Sebastián, and the best film prize at Valladolid.
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Cast: Lee Seung-yeon, Jae Hee, Kwon Hyuk-ho, Joo Jin-mo, Choi Jeong-ho
Running time: 87 minutes