Directed by Kim Ki-duk. Starring Lee Seung-yeon, Jae Hee, Kwon Hyuk-ho. (2004, R, 95 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., May 27, 2005
A young Korean man (Jae) tapes fliers to doors in a busy city – slum buildings, palatial estates, and shiny antiseptic apartments with video security cameras and objets d’art. When the fliers remain undisturbed for a certain period, he picks the lock and lets himself in – misting the plants, playing the answering-machine message, and fixing broken appliances. And he always photographs himself alongside the family portrait. Like the image from which the film takes its title – the least-used club in a set, which waits in a golf bag until it’s needed for a tricky shot – he’s silent and still but probably has the potential to whack the hell out of somebody. Enter Sun-hwa (Lee), a reclusive woman married to a boorish, abusive salaryman (Kwon) whose door gets fliered and picked one day. She watches and is fascinated by the ritual of breaking and entering, misting and showering, and she escapes with the mysterious intruder. Writer-director Kim Ki-Duk quietly observes the pair’s habit of trying on new lives each day, building a narrative flow out of small moments that gradually build into gestures of mutual tenderness. All the while, the protagonists never speak. This is not a caper film, even when the law inevitably gets involved, but a meditation on how and why people connect. The resolution, which I of course cannot reveal, is surprising and magical, but the film is so careful and the performances so down-to-earth, with every feeling made visible, that it makes perfect sense. The world outside of the two lovers, with its police interrogations, meaningless social conventions, horrific violence, and endless prattle and noise, seems alien instead. As with the austere monastery setting of Kim’s Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … and Spring, the characters dwell on what seems to be a different plane of existence – only its physical location is created by the absence of others. It sounds high-minded, but 3-Iron is in fact simple and economical, blessedly straighforward, absorbing, and hard to forget.