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The Isle (2001)

A movie directed by Ki-duk Kim (II)

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I will never see a fish hook the same way again

  • Dec 2, 2007
This is my third film from director Ki-duk Kim (II). The first one being "3-Iron" and the second "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring" both being great but close to silent films. The Isle (Seom), a deeply troubling and equally beautiful film that will shake the hardiest of souls despite a minimal body count and bloodletting. The poetic setting propels much of the storyline, which follows lost souls Hee-Jin (Suh Jung), an errand girl and occasional prostitute who services a neighborhood of floating lake homes, and new resident Hyun-Shik (Yoosuk Kim), a quiet, suicidal cop on the run from the law after shooting his girlfriend. When the despondent Hyun-Shik tries to kill himself, the young girl stops him with a well-applied knife poke. She continues to spy on him, and the two silently develop a twisted relationship that escalates when he engages in some self-mutilation involving fish hooks. Add to the mix an accidental death, corpse disposal, more fish hook mayhem, and a lyrical finale, and you have one of the more memorable art-house/shock cinema.

Though filled with images of sexual mutilation, excretion, and much-discussed animal violence (mainly to fish), "The Isle" is a far cry from an exploitation film; this is deeply felt, melancholy material, a harsh love story between two people beaten down by life and unable to express themselves except through pain.

The film also leavens the somber tone with a few nicely placed sick laughs, often at the expense of the characters' outrageous behavior, and director Ki-duk Kim displays an impeccable eye for simple, beautifully composed images. The floating single-room homes over foggy, rippling water are a marvelous, otherworldly visual conceit, though the feeling that the film itself might just float away is indeed fulfilled in the puzzling finale, which unfortunately goes about half a minute too long and closes with a non sequitor image that undoes much of the climax's power.

"The Isle (Seom)" a small blip in an otherwise immaculately constructed film that refuses to play by anyone's rules and stands as another proud example of horror filmmaking as a matter of tone rather than content.

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April 23, 2011
fish hooks...oh my. :)
More The Isle (2001) reviews
review by . January 23, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
Korean Movie Poster
I've always been a fan of Kim Ki-Duk's. I've reviewed most of his films and for some reason, I haven't reviewed my first experience from this outcast Korean director. Kim has been labeled an outcast because his films are methodical, violent and his style usually deals more on themes and imagery rather than its narrative. "The ISLE" (2000) is a beautiful film, emotionally violent, horrific and it defies a solid definition of genre. It is a story about obsession and the …
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Jen-Jay AKA:JJI ()
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Married into the military for over a decade and it does has itpros andcons. The lifestyle is great and Ido enjoy it. I'm able to do things and see things that I thought I wouldn't dream of. My kids loves … more
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About this movie


Beautiful, angry and sad, with a curious sick poetry, as if the Marquis de Sade had gone in for pastel landscapes... beautiful to look at. --Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
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Director: Ki-duk Kim (II)
DVD Release Date: May 20, 2003
Runtime: 89 minutes
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