Moebius review: Freud to a crisp

Freudian or what: Eun-woo Lee and Jo Jae-Hyeon in Moebius

Film Title: Moebius

Director: Kim ki Duk

Starring: Jae-hyeon Jo, Eun-woo Lee, Young-ju Seo

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 89 min

Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 00:00


Enraged by her husband’s affair with a local girl, a mother (Eun-woo Lee) does what any wronged woman in a Kim Ki-duk film would: she takes a blade to her husband’s penis. When that doesn’t work out, she slices off their son’s organ instead, eats it and storms out of the family home. Stay tuned for gang rape and further castrations.

The guilt-ridden father (Kim regular Cho Jae-hyun) researches penile transplants, then orgasm through self-mutilation on a website called Whole Body is Genital. The father’s mistress (who, for added Oedipal lulz, is played by the same actor who plays the mother) strikes up a bizarre BDSM arrangement with the son (Young-ju Seo). The words “operatic” and “Freudian” do not begin to cover what ensues when mum finally returns.

There were misguided mutterings about misogyny when Kim Ki-duk exploded on to the international scene with The Isle (2000). What critics didn’t know was that genital mutilation is for Kim what visual patterns were for Stanley Kubrick.

Although the film-maker has subsequently paused to produce the occasional visual Buddhist poem (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring) and mournful biographical documentary (Arirang), his most ground-breaking work has trolled heteronormality and bourgeois family values. In Kim’s crazy-town borough of the movieverse, freedom is beating someone to death with their own golf club (3-Iron) and love is feeding your fake monstrous mother a piece of flesh from your own thigh (Pieta).

Even by Kim’s extreme standards, Moebius maintains such a pitbull hold on its straight-world targets that it enters a shadowy realm of post-subversion. Picture, if you will, a vicious parody of Kim Ki-duk’s most vicious parodies. There are, accordingly, several blackly comic sequences that put one in mind of the South Park episode Eek, a Penis!.

A profoundly visual storyteller who never uses a word where a pungent image will suffice, Kim’s 18th feature dispenses with dialogue altogether. Its characters are nameless: we assign their familial roles according to spatial relations and the roof over their heads. The queasily close camerawork is an appropriate showcase for incestuous shenanigans. The performances see-saw between regimental stillness and explosive violence. Consanguinity has seldom looked bloodier.