TIME
(Shi gan)
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk has enjoyed
success in the United States with movies like
3-IRON and SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER
... AND SPRING
. His thirteenth film is TIME, a
meditation on love and relationships and the
effects that the titular object has on them.

The movie opens with a difficult to watch video
of plastic surgery, which is enjoying a boom in
South Korea. We then see a recent subject
leaving a clinic, her face covered with a mask. A
young woman chatting on a cell phone, Seh-hee
(Park Ji-Yum), accidentally bumps into the
photograph. Seh-hee tells the woman to wait
while she gets the glass fixed, but the woman
disappears. Seh-hee heads off to a local café to
meet with her boyfriend Ji-woo (Ha Jung-woo), a
film editor. At the café, she accosts her
boyfriend and breaks out into a jealous rage
when he even looks at another woman. Although
others comment on how much she must really
love him, Ji-woo and the audience begin to
wonder.

The next day, Seh-hee visits the local plastic
surgery clinic and convinces the doctor (Kim
Sung-min) to operate, forever changing her look.
Ji-woo is devastated when he discovers that his
girlfriend has disappeared. He mopes around
and revisits a sculpture park where he and
Seh-hee spent time. On the ferry trip over, he
encounters a masked woman who clearly has
had some form of plastic surgery. As he tries to
move on with his life, though, something
happens and the women he is pursuing draw
away from him.

Eventually at the cafe, he meets new waitress
See-hee (Seong Hyeon-ah) not realizing that it
is his old girlfriend with a new face. He is
attracted to her, though, for inchoate reasons
and he begins to pursue her until he receives a
letter from Seh-hee and becomes convinces she
is on her way back to him. At this point, the film
veers into even stranger territory.

Watching the film, I was intrigued and it has
haunted me. There are so many questions that
the movie raises: Is what we are watching
merely a dream? Or is it an alternative reality?
The director plays and replays certain scenes,
but each time there are slight variations, such
as numerous arguments in the cafe, or several
visits to the sculpture park (which sometimes
appears to be flooded by the tides).

And how is it that Ji-woo doesn't recognize the
essence of Seh-hee in See-hee. The similarity of
their names should be his first clue, but
certainly by the time he is intimate with her, it
should be obvious. This is partly why the
suggestion that the film might be a fantasy or
dream makes sense. It may also help with the
ending which exactly echoes the early meeting
scene. A post-operative See-hee encounters
Seh-hee like an Escher drawing or a Möbius strip.

TIME veers wildly from melodrama to comedy to
romance, not always successfully. For some, the
film will be a tedious experience while for others
(me included) it will raise disquieting questions.
 


Rating:                B
Running time:     97 mins.


   Viewed at Magno Review Two
TIME (Shi gan),
directed by KIM Ki-duk
© 2006 LifeSize Entertainment. All rights reserved.