Initially, this play on identity and the afterlife grounds itself in reality, following a professor cross-country after he bails on his responsibilities to find his wife, who he believes to be training to be a shaman on an island. Accompanied by a detective with a violent disposition, idiosyncrasy and stillness denote the first half of the film with selfishness and acts of aggression, such as kicking a tarp full of peppers off the road, suggesting self-imposed existential woe.
As the story progresses, a secondary, framing, storyline develops wherein two men are seen fishing, discussing the potential motivation of their fish that take bait, even though it's discernibly different from their traditional cuisine. Questions about their desire to enter the void of the unknown, hoping for a potential enlightenment are mirrored with practical observations suggesting mere simplicity and chaotic free will.
Of course, nothing is as it seems and eventually characters start to question how they came to be where they are. Did they choose to be where they are, or is a more fatalistic sensibility at play? And because Hong-min Park has a clumsy undergraduate sensibility, the idiosyncrasy takes form in physical presence and connections between the living and the dead, whether they are literal or psychological.
In such, the latter half of the film is a bit of a self-indulgent mess, imploding with concepts that are never fully realized nor handled with much grace. Had he focused on the stillness and internal struggles of his characters rather than forcing them into deliberately peculiar and awkwardly explained scenarios, this examination of existence could have held some power. But without any emotion, these scenarios merely come off as rank and amateur.
A Fish screens on Saturday November 10th, 2012 at 10:45am at the Royal Theatre (Dima Entertainment)