Review: Bin-jip (3-Iron, 2004)

Is it or isn’t it reality can be a tiring notion!

Written By: Ki-duk Kim
Directed By: Ki-duk Kim

I spent some time thinking about Bin-jip. Upon first impression I came away from Bin-jip happy with what I had watched. However, the more I thought about the weird spiritual turn the second half of the film takes and the way the film ends the more corrosive my thoughts became. I still greatly enjoyed Bin-jip, but not as much as I initially thought.

The first hour, or thereabouts, of Bin-jip really is the greatest strength of the film. Following the characters of Tae-suk and Sun-hwa as they break into abode after abode is a very uplifting and soulful experience. They do not speak, but they do not need to speak. Their love comes through in their actions, their faces, and in the way they look at one another. It also comes through loud and clear when the voices we do get to hear are unable to express the same sort of love found in our silent bandits. Not every action that our intrepid duo undertake is for the best, but they completely share their actions. There’s also a tone of understanding that they share, they repay what they take, and in the case of Tae-suk he indirectly pays for a silly mistake he makes on a South Korean street.

There is plenty of quirk to be found in Bin-jip, but it was never a problem for me. That is it was never a problem until the final twenty minutes of the film. I wasn’t able to go along with the films sudden switch from a stoic statement on the loneliness of humanity into a heightened fable. When the final scroll of words played across the bottom of my screen and it became clear, to me at least, that Ki-duk Kim had constructed a tale where it possibly all took place in someone’s head I could only sigh.

I’m not opposed to “it was all a dream” movies. But I have a hard time going along with a film that wants to tell me that the characters I just had such a great time with possibly didn’t do all the things in the movie. It’s a cheap ploy for a film to pull the rug out from under you in the final seconds. There are movies that question reality, like El Laberinto Del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth), but those movies present two realities. Bin-jip presents one reality and then says, “wait a second, that world you thought was real may not be real, and all the emotions you carried for those characters were in service of a cheap twist.” If Bin-jip were as coldly clinical as The Sixth Sense I wouldn’t have disliked the final twenty minutes as much as I did.

The first hour and ten minutes of Bin-jip were full of emotion, soul, and powerful filmmaking. The final twenty minutes were an attempt at whimsical filmmaking, a misguided attempt. There’s still a lot to like about Bin-jip, and on the whole I was still pleased with the experience of watching Bin-jip. That being said, the ending left a bad taste in my mouth. There’s plenty of soul to be had and emotional truths to be explored in Bin-jip, and they were explored just fine without the whimsical fantasy that was the ending, thank you very much.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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