THE ISLE. (2000) A TARTAN ASIA EXTREME FILM DIRECTED BY KIM KI-DUK. STARRING SEO JEONG AND KIM YOO-SUK. ©
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘The most sexually perverse movie to hit our screens since David Cronenberg’s CRASH.’
I don’t know about ‘sexually perverse,’ but this Korean film is certainly what I would describe as an ‘ouch-y’ type of a movie. There are at least two major ‘ouch’ moments in the film, each involving fish-hooks (yes, fish-hooks!) that I personally could have done without.
Apart from these squeamish-making scenes, and the scenes of animal cruelty in it as well,THE ISLE is a really rather good, starkly beautiful film about the folks whom society throws away; prostitutes, their pimps, people who feel isolated and the people who put themselves outside the law by committing maybe a one-off crime, as in the case of the film’s male lead, a criminal on the run from the law.
It’s the story of a stunningly beautiful mute woman called Hee-Jin, who runs what is known as a ‘fishing isle.’ Men come and stay at the gorgeous picturesque lake for a few days at a time in order to avail of the lake’s excellent fishing and take a break from the rat-race for a bit.
They stay in structures that each look like a child’s wendy house or play-tent on top of a raft. The tiny ‘houses’ are not big enough for a man to stand up in, but he can sleep in them, and also use them to shelter against the rain if needs be. The ‘toilet’ is merely a hatch leading to a hole in the bottom of the raft: lift up the hatch and do your business in the lake. It’d put me off swimming in the lake, that’s for damn sure.
Hee-Jin rows out to the little fishing ‘houses’ with bait for the fishermen, and coffee and food as well. They’re all sexist pigs who try to get their ravishing ‘landlady’ to speak, but she just flat-out ignores their bullshit. She’s not only supplying them with the necessities of life and fishing, however.
The most expensive commodity with which the fishermen are provided is, well, sex. Teenage prostitutes are rowed out to the fishing houses by Hee-Jin, whenever the men require them. The girls have a pimp, but to all intents and purposes, Hee-Jin is their madam, although she has sex with the clients herself when required.
The girls cut tragic figures, with their skinny legs and tiny feet in their huge clunky hooker shoes, the miniscule outfits and garish make-up of their trade. They act so blasé and know-it-all, but underneath all the bluster and bravado, they’re just children. It’s heartbreaking, really, to see them being pawed and mauled and even abused by the disgusting, much older businessmen who have rented the fishing houses.
A problem arises when one of the little baby hookers develops a crush on Hyun-shik, the criminal on the run with whom Hee-Jin, mistress of the fishing isle, has fallen in love, or in her version of love, anyway.
Both Hee-Jin and Hyun-sik have a very skewed take on love. Their affair is violent, masochistic and probably very unhealthy by so-called ‘normal’ standards. It seems to be the case that they’re almost vying with each other to see who can physically hurt themselves the most, usually with the dreaded fish-hooks.
Hee-Jin is a woman to whom violence comes easily. She swims like a fish and is eerily and supernaturally mermaid-like in the way in which she silently manipulates the residents of the fishing isle and the prostitutes and pimps who frequent the area also. I don’t fancy the chances of the little baby hooker who falls for Hyun-sik, the man whom the damaged-beyond-repair Hee-Jin has marked down for herself…
The film is visually gorgeous to look at. The isolated lake in the rain, the lonely fishing houses in the sunlight, the solitary Hee-Jin as she sits with her dog watching the rain fall on her little domain; it’s all haunting, compelling beyond words. The isolation of the undoubtedly fabulous surroundings mirrors exactly the alienation of the protagonists. Watch the film with your legs tightly closed and your hand clamped firmly over your mouth. Why? I have only one word for you people… fish-hooks. Or is that really two words…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
You can contact Sandra at: