March 5, 2014

Doomsday Book: Three Short Films Herald End of the World as We Know It

The apocalypse elicits mixed feelings in me. The primacy of survival appeals to my minimalist bent. The mass destruction of life makes my heart break. Secretly, between you and me, I think that technological advancements don't always advance society but that doesn't mean that I want to see planet Earth turned into a cinder of its former self to make a technophobic point. The three doomsday scenarios played out in Doomsday Book tap into some of my fears and some of my frustrations about the end of the world scenarios, although only one does it in a way that's truly artful. That's not the first entry, Yim Pil-sung's In a Brave New World, a vegan parable that posits that one bad apple is going to transmogrify mankind into rageaholic zombies, after the rotten fruit is eaten by a cow that's eaten by another cow. The winner isn't the third short either, Yim's Happy Birthday. This woeful tale of world's end finds a little girl (Jin Ji-hee) mistakenly making an e-purchase for a meteor that resembles a giant 8-ball. You can scratch that one off your must-see list too.

The standout, for me, is -- Kim Jee-woon's The Heavenly Creature. This mesmerizing short concerns a service robot (voiced by Park Hae-il) at a Buddhist temple who may or not be the latest re-incarnation of Buddha himself. Both suspenseful and philosophical, The Heavenly Creature is chockful of clever social commentary about consciousness, loneliness, self-actualization, pets, corporate hierarchies, religion, perception, apartment dwelling, etc. It's strong enough to stand alone, even if it's running time is under an hour. The end is near. Who has time for a long movie?

Footnote for completists: Ryu Seung-beom headlines In a Brave New World as the Adam of the new zombie race while director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother, Memories of Murder) also makes a brief appearance (in front of the camera for a change).

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