November 28, 2014

Moebius: The Family That Castrates Together...

The willfully shocking Kim Ki-duk, the Lars von Triers of Korea, is back with another ultra-violent, psychologically perverse art film, this one adding castration to his catalogue of deconstructed crimes: rape, murder, suicide, incest, etc. And it's not just one castration. There are actually a few -- the first being committed by a jealous woman (Lee Eun-woo) on her son (Seo Young-ju) after she is unable to execute the dirty deed on her husband (Jo Jae-hyeon) who is having an affair with a shopkeeper who resembles her (and is also played by Lee). If such an act of brutality feels outside the realm of reality, take note. Moebius doesn't occur in our world but takes place instead in some weird parallel universe where people never speak but merely grunt, moan and laugh. Language is confined to search results that come up when googling for something like "penile replacement" or "autoerotica." Sound ridiculous?

Well, some critics have label Moebius a black comedy. I for one didn't laugh once, though I winced repeatedly. For me, this film falls squarely in that half of Kim's work which strains credulity and hammers at its dubious points insistently and insanely. What distinguishes Moebius isn't its sliced-off penises but its wordlessness -- teens gang-raping the aforementioned shopkeeper, the married couple wrestling over a cell phone, some high school students ripping off the pants' of a schoolmate to get a giggle from viewing his stump -- all acts which would seem to necessitate the screaming of "No." But no. In a way, I left Moebius wondering why Kim allowed his actors any sounds at all.

And what is Moebius actually saying? That we're all animals -- more dogs, than apes, frankly? That masochism is our most reliable survival tool? That our culture has us trapped in an internecine cycle in which each generation attacks what follows and what comes before? There's plenty of meaning to extract from Moebius if you wish. You could also make a case for it being meaningless. I can see where some would love it and some would hate but I fall squarely in the middle on this one. Call it a love-hate relationship.

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