Directed by: Ki-duk Kim
Written by: Ki-duk Kim
Starring: Yeo-reum Han, Si-jeok Seo, Gook-hwan Jeon
There is something about Ki-duk Kim’s films that is hard to put into words. In viewing most films you can pinpoint the emotional journey that you’re going through – “oh, how sad!”, “how romantic!”, “this movie sucks”, etc. But with Ki-duk Kim’s films, it is truly a challenge to define the emotions that he paints through such visually rich and unconventional stories.
The Bow tells the story of a sixty year old man who lives on a fishing boat. He brings tourists and fishing enthusiasts to his boat and lets them fish in his prime location in the middle of the ocean. But if they lay a hand on a mysterious teenage girl who lives with him on the boat, he is prepared to shoot them with arrows and send them scurrying back to where they came from. The girl – it turns out – has been raised for ten years on the boat, and when she turns seventeen, the old man is planning to marry her. The girl is more than happy to oblige until a young man steps onto the boat and changes the course of her desire.
Perversion, pedophilia, and disturbing thoughts come to mind when one is initially introduced to the premise, but when you actually view the craft of director Kim’s storytelling, you enter a shade of grey that has a poetic and beautiful quality. The relationship between the old man and the young girl has a purity and innocence that is so rarely seen onscreen. Their interactions are completely delivered with silence, inaudible whispers, and gestures. Even when other fisherman demand to know what the strange couple whisper into the ears of fishermen curious to know their fortune (for the old man has fortune telling abilities), such connections through speech are denied. Instead, director Kim forces us to read their actions, their facial expressions, and the depths of their emotions which are as expansive as the ocean they live on. The story is one of love – a love troubled by unfathomable loneliness, attachment, and secrecy.
Ki-duk Kim is a master of telling stories that dig into the most basic of human emotions. And yet, the originality of his stories and storytelling methods force us to see the multiplicity of emotional shades that exist in human relations. His films give the viewer the sense that they are experiencing a new emotion altogether in witnessing such a rare and exquisite story.