By all accounts, Kim Ki-duk took it a bit easier with his newest drama, The Net. There is no swallowing of fish hooks, skinning of frogs, or plunging of hands into your mother’s nether regions, to name but a few acts that have marked him as one of contemporary world cinema’s more “extreme” figures. (Whether that’s a compliment or a knock is up to you.) What he’s instead concocted here is a spy tale that finds intrigue in the North Korean-South Korean border that largely focuses on isolation and interrogations — occasionally of the violent kind, but not to the extent we’d otherwise expect from the South Korean.
Word out of Venice and TIFF has been positive enough, if not overwhelming, and with various criticisms (including the sense that Kim isn’t totally invested in this material) recurring. The set-up nevertheless intrigues — as does a first preview, which also sells a visually intriguing product. I’ve never much taken to the writer-director in efforts past, but the recognition that something is “there” continues with this new glimpse. Not getting burned would be nice.
Have a look at the trailer and poster below:
Synopsis (via TIFF):
Nam Chul-woo (Ryoo Seung-bum) is a poor fisherman living a simple but happy life with his wife and daughter on the north side of a river that divides the two Koreas. Every day he goes fishing on the river, where the checkpoint soldiers know him well and trust him not to cross the invisible border in the water. But one day his fishing net gets caught in the boat’s engine, and Nam cannot stop himself from drifting into the South.
Upon reaching shore, he is immediately seized by South Korean border police and thrust into a brutal investigation, whose ambitious interrogating officer (Kim Young-min) begins grooming him to be a defector and a spy. As Nam’s ordeal intensifies, it becomes apparent that, even should he manage to return home, his life in the North will never be the same.
The Net is currently without U.S. distribution.