November 22, 2014

Scars: A Miserable Marriage Not Worth Talking About

Spoiler alert! I'm going to jump right to this movie's big reveal, the scene in which the jerky husband (who's a newscaster at work, a joy-killer at home) is undressed by his maudlin wife (Park So-yeon) after he (Jong Hee-tae) has banged his forehead in bathroom sink to the point of unconsciousness. Once his white Oxford shirt is removed (both post-trauma and in an intercut flashback), we see that his torso has been ravaged by a fire; from neck to hip, he's covered with what looks to be a vat of dried Elmer's glue. As special effects go, it's actually not bad. As symbolism, I'm less sure. Are we supposed to interpret the scars as the imperfections that have made this man a perfectionist? The physical manifestation of the man's insensitivity to his ultra-passive, sulky wife? It feels like it's supposed to mean SOMETHING but all I felt was, "Hah! So the title actually has a pay-off."

The movie's other big symbol is a Buddha face that keeps reappearing for -- can I go so far to say, stalking -- the shat-upon wife, a children's book illustrator who manages to get work despite being completely uncommunicative in an interview. First encountered as a mud bas relief in a cave, she mauls the Buddha face. But the zen deity's face comes back again and again, in the side of a tree, in some soil underfoot, etc. What is the Buddha telling her when he resurfaces, perfectly formed and contented? Get your chill on, girl? Don't mess with God? Try sculpture instead of drawing? Honestly, only writer-director Lim Woo-Seong knows. And it's not as though there's much to help us decipher or decode this movie's motifs. Scars has very little dialogue and aside from a recurring sequence in which the Mrs. makes some sort of tea with apricot jelly (that's what it looks like from a very uninformed viewer), not much happens except the husband is cheating or brushing his teeth, the wife is moping or going for silent walks in the woods.

Running just over an hour, Scars can be classified as either a very short feature or an overextended short. I'd probably go with the latter. It feels long!

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