Film Review: Moebius

Article By Joy Chiang Ling
Photo credit Niko

Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius is not for the faint of heart. Its main cast features a family of three: a father (Cho Jae-Hyun), mother (Lee Eun-Woo) and their son (Seo Young-Joo), who are nameless throughout the entire story. The film begins by revealing their troubled situation. The housewife, madly jealous because of her husband’s infidelity, unleashes her anger by attempting to sever his genitals. When that attempt fails, she instead severs her son’s, which causes the story to spiral down a series of gruesome and unfortunate events.

Moebius is a ‘restricted’ film in South Korean theaters for good reason. It is a jarring film to watch, despite not having any dialogue. Nearly every scene involves either violence or sex, and even when sex is involved, violence surely follows. There are religious undertones, apparent by the occasional appearance of Buddhist symbols. The knife that the mother uses to castrate her son’s penis, for example, is hidden under a Buddha statue in their home. Perhaps the film is trying to warn viewers about the dangers of following one’s carnal desires. If so, then it goes about it in an excessively brutal, un-Buddha-like fashion.

This film will leave its audience feeling disturbed and frightened, except for perhaps avid followers of Kim Ki-duk’s films, who are probably used to his ultra-violent style. It makes use of auditory sensations, such as the scraping of stone against skin, to unnerve its viewers and make their skin crawl. I found myself closing my eyes during certain scenes, only to be forced to listen to the unpleasant sounds of screaming and whaling. It is very difficult to escape the horrors of this film. It is certainly not for sensitive people.

After receiving its “restricted” rating from the Korea Media Rating Board, Moebius was only allowed to be seen in specialist theaters and certain film festivals. Several minutes of the film had to be edited out before being released in September 2013. It will be featured in the New York Asian Film Festival, which begins June 27, 2014 and ends July 14, 2014. It will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema, in association with Japan Society.

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