Published Sep 25, 2013A comedy of the darkest order, Moebius is audacious and perverse, even by the standards of the man responsible for last year's highly discomforting Oedipal revenge drama, Pieta. Anyone put off by the graphic handling of taboo subject matter in that film won't last five minutes in this ecstatically transgressive masterstroke of visual storytelling.
Obliterating all language barriers, not a single word is uttered in this fiendishly funny and extraordinarily uncomfortable cinematic experiment. Ki-duk's direction is assured, exemplifying the creed "show, don't tell" — an intentionally enigmatic ending nodding to the film's title is the only moment it's not abundantly clear what's going on.
Enraged by her husband's wandering Johnson, a woman (Lee Eun-woo) attempts to sever the offending member after catching her teenage son secretly watching his father (Cho Jae-hyun) getting coital with a busty shopkeeper in a parking lot. When her castration plot fails, this wild-eyed, dishevelled mother turns the knife on her son, disposes of the evidence and disappears into the night. Most of the rest of the film revolves around the father's guilt, his son's shame and the mistress's painful loneliness.
The damaging nature of sexual obsession is of chief concern to Ki-duk's narrative, with each character becoming addicted to some form of agony in order to get off. While the father researches methods of sexual stimulation that don't require a sex organ, the son (Seo Young-ju) tries to hide his disfigurement at school and winds up getting involved with some unsavoury older thugs.
His only source of solace is his father's mistress, who is so desperate for affection she'll take it in whatever form it comes, welcoming exploitation and violence, along with garden-variety lust. Furthering the psychosexual analysis of incestuous drive, Lee Eun-woo also plays the mistress. She's so convincing at creating two distinct personalities that only her sizeable, gravity-defying bosom betrays the illusion.
As ever, Ki-duk doesn't balk at going all the way, and then some, with his purposeful incitement of traditional sexual behaviour. More so than in previous efforts though, the brazen South Korean auteur is pushing buttons as much for comedic effect as bold artistic introspection.
For those with an exceptionally sick sense of humour, Moebius is absolutely hilarious. The way Ki-duk uses sound effects, highlighted by the absence of words, will make even the most seasoned viewers squirm and howl in exquisite discomfort. Shot with handheld cameras, for an appropriate sense of intimacy, the jittery framing can be a bit distracting, though the degree of frazzle corresponds to the intensity of emotion in each scene, so the stylistic choice isn't an arbitrary one.
Far too confrontational for most audiences, Kim Ki-duk's latest is also far too thoughtful and bleakly hysterical to be ignored. This unabashed reflection on the uncomfortable connection between lineage and sexuality, and the crippling guilt that can arise from exploring base impulses, is sure to find a niche of enthusiastic appreciators. (Finecut)