Korean director Kim Ki-Duk has never been one to shy away from pushing things to the limit, often pushing them over the limit. Kim’s films are generally slow moving affairs, full of emotion, fantastic camera work and scenery, bleak as hell and often they lead to an unsettling conclusion. Anyone who has seen the dark and twisted The Isle should know just how far this director is prepared to go. Anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend it, just don’t expect any clear answers and have a sick bucket ready. Bad Guy is an easier film in terms of story and plot, is easier to follow but has an incredibly dark tone and an even nastier tale. Which brings me to Time, a passionate tale and possibly Kim’s easiest to stomach.
Meet Ji-Woo and Seh-Hee, a young couple who appear to be madly in love. Having been together two years, Seh-Hee begins to get nervous of Ji-Woo’s feelings for her. She believes he is eyeing up other girls and possibly wanting to move on. Ji-Woo loves her with all his heart, however, he does have wandering eyes, but as the old saying goes “you can look, but don’t touch”. He has never cheated on her, and has no plans to, but Seh-Hee is quite literally going mad with jealousy. The two often meet at local cafe and it’s here the majority of the problems start, and it’s anybody’s guess how the two didn’t get banned from this place! Ji-Woo is eyeing up the waitress, waiting for Seh-Hee. She arrives, only, Ji-Woo’s car is hit and he goes out to swap insurance details with the two female drivers. Seh-Hee looks on, jealous and raging at him laughing and getting this girls telephone number. The female drivers also come into the cafe, and in a bizarre and unsettling scene, Seh-Hee lets rip and shouts the place down, both at her boyfriend and the female drivers. It’s a scene that shows just how far over the edge jealousy can push someone and it’s frightening. Chasing Ji-Woo into the street after causing such a scene, Seh-Hee now has to deal with people looking at her like she’s a lunatic, and you can clearly see she is hurt and embarrassed.
Later, while having sex, Ji-Woo is not interested and See-Hee goes mad, ordering him to think of the girl from the accident, it works, but then he is told off and he has no idea how to react. Tensions are indeed high and the director, so far, has built an incredibly powerful tale of love and obsession which I think most of us can relate to in some way or other. It’s an honest film so far, believable in most places and quite moving. The whole relationship is handled delicately and carefully, you really feel for these two and in a round-a-bout way, they become like your friends.
Things take a bizarre turn, as Seh-Hee decides that her face is boring and of no interest to Ji-Woo anymore. She decides to have a face-lift and this is where things turn slightly dark and extremely bizarre. Having to wait six months for the wounds to heal, she disappears, leaving Ji-Woo lost and upset. He soon starts trying to see other women, but he misses Seh-Hee desperately. He goes to their old favourite places, including a strange sculpture park on an island. It’s a strange and eerie place that is helped by Kim’s dedication to making scenery as haunting as possible using no special effects, just genuine camera and light trickery. Watch any of Kim’s films and you will see how normal, everyday places can have an added depth and coldness by using certain shades of colour. Here, a weak blue colour and added mist and heavy cloud create an unwelcome but strangely familiar feel that somehow feels right. After a brief glance and play at passing a child’s football on the ferry, Ji-Woo and Seh-Hee finally meet again, only Ji-Woo has no idea who it is. A relationship soon blossoms and the two are happy again, with Ji-Woo having no idea that this is his girlfriend who disappeared. You hope things could work out…
Still obsessed, Seh-Hee has another one of her jealous rages, in the same cafe and causes yet another scene. She goes back to her Dr about the facelift and generally starts to break down all over again. A few further twists and turns bring this awkward tale to its devastating conclusion, but to say anymore would ruin the surprise. This is a highly original love story, done in a way you would never have thought imaginable. At times the love is beautiful, others, it is dark, menacing and bordering on psychotic. Kim Ki-Duk slowly creates a genuine atmosphere, and a story which draws you in and allows you to really get involved with the characters. Kim’s inch perfect attentions to detail shows that this film has had a lot of care go into it, so the intentions of the story are proper ones. I can only assume his point is about loving the person you are with not just for looks, but for who they are as a person. I also believe one of the points is to trust your partner, and that jealousy only leads to the destruction of a relationship and a serious breakdown in communications. I feel that another point here is that it is so easy to lose someone you care about if you take a selfish path and cut them off. The film could also be saying that you can push someone so far away that you’ll never get them back. Whatever the reasons, it will make you look at your nearest and dearest with love, and thanks in the fact that you are happy and a story as sad as Time will never happen to you. Time, they say, heals all wounds; however, it can also create them.