What is it with Korean movies? Time

. 2 min read

When I first started working in the movie theater back in the day, I though I knew a lot about movies. I knew a lot of actors and directors and notable movies in general. I'd even seen Dr. Strangelove. I quickly realized I didn't know crap - the other workers seemed to talk in a completely different language. They knew every director. They knew every movie, all the way back to the 20's. And, most notably, they knew foreign movies and their directors - and not only by name, they had freaking watched them. They knew Middle Eastern movies. They knew European movies. And they knew Korean movies. This was a game changer.

They knew Park Chan-wook and Kim Ki-duk. Their names and respective works kept popping up, even in small talk.

At that point, I'd already seen Time (2006) by Kim Ki-duk. And man, was that a good movie. But back then I didn't realize I should perhaps check out the directors other works. (What an idiot. I later corrected this mistake, and thus more of him tomorrow.)

Time (original title Shi gan) is about a couple, the woman of which thinks she no longer interests her boyfriend, so she goes through plastic surgery without telling him to see if she could revive his affection for her. The man, however, had found her as interesting and lovely as ever, and is devastated when he notices she's left. He tries to find her but cannot recognize her from the masses anymore. The woman finds her way back to his life without declaring her identity, and they "rekindle" their relationship, but he cannot be sure this is the woman he loves. He decides to go though plastic surgery as well, that is, making both of their original identities unrecognizable to the other.

Time is a truly brilliant movie by a truly brilliant director. Kim manages to create an ambiance where neither the man, the viewer, or finally the woman know who's who - while keeping the plot interesting and followable. The statue park offers a beautiful setting for some of the scenes, and the larger than life, hopeless love story makes the viewer emotional every time. (I've seen this a few times, I admit.)

The movie offers a very psychological experience. It begs the question: is your identity in your visage? If you change your looks, will you become a new person? And if yes, is it because you feel different, or because people treat your as a different person? How can you cope with the finality of the plastic surgery? And even if you decided to change your life completely to conform to the (at least visually) changed identity, will you truly believe the change in your core, or will your past self stay to haunt you?

Surely renewing your identity on the inside on a regular basis for the sake of personal development is encouraged. But then again, isn't a change on the inside more fundamental than any change in the facade? Or is the change in your mirror image that has the most powerful effect?