HKAFF: Moebius 뫼비우스 切夫之痛 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 29th October 2013

Director: 金基德 Kim Ki-duk
Starring: 曹在顯 Cho Jae-hyun, 李恩雨 Lee Eun-woo, 徐英洙 Seo Young-ju

Reviewed at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013
Asian premiere at the 2013 Busan International Film Festival (October 2013).

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After narrowly missing the Busan screening of the controversial and censorship loathed new film from master filmmaker Kim Ki Duk, I wasn’t going to miss the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival leg of “Moebius”. What can I say about this film? Let’s start of by a few descriptive words, namely disturbing, twisted, unbelievable, fascinating, frustrating and incestuous. Believe me, Kim Ki Duk have made some strange films, dealing with difficult and often controversial subjects (i.e. “Pieta”), but in “Moebius”, he goes further and beyond even himself. From the opening scene of a moebius wife who is mentally ill from her husband infidelity, fails to cut his penis and instead turn her attention to their son and quite frankly and literally chop off his penis. With a breath of fresh air, let’s continue. In fact, the film proudly produces not just one scene of penis chopping, but a total of 4 penises being disfigured. That’s not precisely the point, as director Kim Ki Duk is not trying to have a penis count, but rather show the effects of dealing with traumatic experiences, broken families, loneliness, troubled people and possibly karmic effects.

Seo Young-ju who impressed in “Juvenile Offender” continues his good form. In fact, one of the reasons why this film works so well is the level of commitment that all the actors take into their roles in this film. Their portrayal and focus is so single minded into the film, that the audience might as well be indulged into some kind of reality show. Seo is able to portray the innocent youth who is still coming to terms of his means of sexuality and the act of it. In such a stage of discovery, his penis is dismantled by his mother and is forced to face a life without his manhood. How he deals with the situation is interesting alone and when you add in his regretful father (played by Cho Jae-hyun) who inturns also surgically remove his penis, so that he can help his son live through this experience together. Add to this is a side story of the older grocery store lady who in effect have sex with all the men in the movie.

Being graphic is one of Kim’s strong points, although the scenes of actual chopping may have been cut, he never shy away from a situation or happening. There many messages and themes in this film that drills well beyond its surface material. Essentially the film is about a number of social outcasts and while the nature of the events is disturbing, the underlying message is even more frightening. What makes “Moebius” so fascinating to endure is not its one note subject about the deeper theory of the human condition and how one single event can lead a total round circle. I am not a Buddhist and have never held such beliefs, but I do believe that what comes around will go around.

All in all, in creating “Moebius”, director Kim Ki-Duk has stirred up even more controversy, but all in good nature. In fact, it seems as those Kim Ki-Duk has actually matured a notch higher, a bit wilder and a bit more over the top. To call “Moebius” daring is actually an understatement, as it is more than that, it is a film that will haunt you, lingers with you and perhaps disturb you till you never think about it again. There are many things in life that we cannot explain and as disturbing the premises of chopping penises (note 3 or 4 in total), this is a gory and bloody film that comes with plenty of substances. While, “Moebius” doesn’t entirely succeed, it will likely blow you away. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 8/10

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