Film Title: Moebius
Dir: Kim Ki-duk
Country: South Korea
Genre: Drama Year: 2013
Kim Ki-duk is a frightening filmmaker. Korean films are violent, bizarre and quite frankly messed up to begin with, and Kim's films are unsettling even by Korean cinema standards. Those who have seen his earlier films will testify to Kim's dark mind. His film Bad Guy dealt with the themes of love and empathy through prostitution, 3-Iron dealt with finding love through crime, last year's Pieta dealt with finding love through karma. All of his films chronicle similar subject matter and he establishes his themes with ridiculously dark treatment. And yet, nothing will prepare you for the shock level and audacity of his new movie Moebius. A viewer at the 2013 Venice film festival passed out due to the film's shock value, and several others had to leave the hall because they couldn't stomach the craziness happening on the screen.
To understand Moebius, you need to be familiar with The Moebius Strip. It's essentially a surface with only one side and only one boundary component. The simple definition is that the strip has the mathematical property of being non-orientable, which means you will be able to run your fingers through the strip without detaching your finger from the surface of the strip. The strip is a loop, it ends where it begins, and every point is connected to every other point in the entire strip. Kim applies this property to the state of contemporary human nature, and the results are baffling, shocking, awe-inspiring and brilliant.
To get into the plot details of Moebius means spoiling the entire film. All you need to do about it is that it chronicles a family — a really, excruciatingly dysfunctional family in a South Korean suburb. The family, on the surface, is like any other average bunch of human. Behind closed doors, it's hell. And by hell, I mean unimaginable hell. We're talking about the man of the house cheating on his wife, who attempts to dismember certain body parts of his as revenge. And when she fails, she is so disturbed that she attempts to endanger the life of their son. It's a great takedown of society in Korea and other Southeast Asian countries where it is still an imperialist rule under the garb of a democracy. The more you pressurise humans, the darker they become from the inside and the more violent the consequences.
And the consequences of the actions of the family in Moebius reach mind-boggling levels. Kim drills into the psyche of mentally fractured characters with the brutality of a Nazi, and yet with an extremely comedic tone. There are scenes in the film which make you squirm in your seat, and still somehow make you laugh due to their sheer audacity. When a character loses his genitals, he discovers on the internet that a way to achieve gratification is by injuring oneself in certain regions of the body. There are various sequences involving the character trying to find happiness in his life by wounding himself, and they're all hilarious and devastating at the same time. But what makes Moebius great is that it treats such schlocky elements with deeply layered, poetic manner. It's like Kim sat down one afternoon and watched a lot of snuff films and decided to make a masterpiece comedy drama immediately after.
One big reason why Moebius works in its demented levels of storytelling is the acting. The performers are extremely good, totally committed and fully knowledgeable of the film's philosophical themes. A band of lesser actors would have turned the film into an ugly mess. It's not surprising for fans of Kim — he just manages to extract great performances in films that don't have a huge story. Like his previous films, Moebius is all about characters and less about plot. It's all about the human condition than about entertainment. The inexplicable part is, you'd be sort of entertained by this film, despite its subject matter. And then you'll wonder if you need to visit a shrink. And that is the genius of Kim Ki-duk.
Mihir Fadnavis is a film critic and certified movie geek who has consumed more movies than meals