I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK

So I've wanted to see this movie for a very long time, and I finally got around to doing so. Though this movie is incredibly hard to come by (even outside the US), so finding a way to watch it was that much more difficult. But it was written and directed by Chan-wook Park, the same guy who did one of my favorite movies, Oldboy. However, it couldn't be any more different (including the fact that Oldboy was an action/drama, and this is a comedy... for the most part, anyway).

I could attempt to give you a plot summary here, like I usually would, but that's incredibly difficult for one major reason: there's really no plot. The best I can describe it is thus: Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim) is a young woman who loses touch with reality after her schizophrenic grandmother is taken away (basically leaving her in the care of her also-schizophrenic mother). Needless to say, Young-goon also seems to gain this genetic schizophrenia and suddenly believes she's a cyborg, and she makes a promise to her mother not to tell anybody about it (so they couldn't keep her locked up). Well, they put her in an insane asylum wherein she talks to electronics and meets a young man by the name of Il-soon (Rain), who is a thief that wears different masks in order to take people's souls (and, in essence, their mental disabilities). But when Young-goon refuses to eat any food in fear of breaking down, Il-soon takes it upon himself to try and get her to eat before she starves to death.

     But with a movie that is just shy of two hours long, that minuscule plot really doesn't stretch itself over the whole time frame. No, what the movie really banks on is its cast of characters. The whole movie is more of a character study than a plot-driven tale. All of the other asylum inmates each have their own mental issues (obviously), most of which get their own moments to shine. And it's really the attention to detail that this movie really pulls through. The camera can be just steadily going down a hallway or through a courtyard, and in the background you see each character doing their own thing and staying perfectly in character, even if they're not even remotely close to being the focus of the scene.

     But of course the two main characters are those of Young-goon and Il-soon, who form the almost heartbreaking romance (heartbreaking because of the circumstances) of the film. To me, Rain stole the show as Il-soon. Whether he was hopping around like a rabbit (and digging out his wedgies immediately after), stealing other people's ‘souls' and taking over their character traits, fidgeting with his masks, or earnestly trying to help Young-goon stay alive, he was really the most interesting character of the entire movie. And what I really loved about both the characters is that there were a lot of hints as to what happened to both of them in their pasts to bring them to this point, but it's never just spelled out for you. And there's always that hint of sadness linked in with the comedy. And that's really the genius of Chan-wook Park, because if you've seen Oldboy, you know that his movies are very psychological and never only one layer deep.

     Though this really brings me to one of my only issues with the movie: sometimes it tried a bit too hard to give another metaphor (because truly, the movie was nothing but metaphors and symbolisms). You know that everything is fake and all the fantasy elements are just happening in their heads, but there were moments I felt didn't need to be in the movie and could have been trimmed down a bit. They were few and far between, but they were there. Because a movie with so little plot—as well as the fact that the first half of the film and the second half of the film don't really match up in what's been focused on (the other patients all but disappear in the last third of the movie)—doesn't need to be almost two hours long. Other than that, the movie was golden.

     At first I also really disliked the ending. It ends, and I'm staring at the screen like "what the hell?" But after a couple minutes to digest it and think about it, the more brilliant it became to me (and this was before I read about a part I actually didn't catch, which just adds to its brilliance). It's a lot like Oldboy's epilogue, to me. I didn't much care for that at first, either. But both endings are very open-ended, leaving you up to so many different interpretations. And I really don't want to spoil anything (so if you've seen the movie, leave a comment so we can discuss it).

     I also wanted to talk about the visuals and cinematography of the film, which were just beautiful. There's a lot of use of color pallets all around. The movie is just very bright and colorful and really gorgeous to watch. The only iffy visuals were the CGI moments during the cyborg fantasy with the guns. Otherwise, it looked really good. And the camera work was great, as well. There were a lot of interesting shots with mirrors, and there were some good long-shots down hallways and such (nothing as epic as the side-scrolling battle in Oldboy, though).

     Really, my last notes about this film are that you can't go into it expecting your brain to function properly. Most people who have disliked the movie have straight-up said they disliked it because it didn't make any sense. Well, after the brilliant opening 10 minutes (confusing at first, brilliant in hindsight) that basically foreshadow the fact that nothing can be taken logically or at face value, you should know what you're getting yourself into. It's a movie about crazy people, and you're going to be submersed into their world fully. The best I can describe it is that it's like at the end of that Robin William's movie, What Dreams May Come: the guy says not to stay in the house too long or he'll start to lose his mind and go crazy, too. Well, the longer you stay with the movie, the crazier you have to think in order to keep up with the utter randomness and chaos of the film. But in the end, the movie is really beautiful and touching... if you can understand it.

Reviewed by: Nick