Review: The Net – Geumul (2016)

The Net – Geumul (2016)

Directed by: Kim Ki-duk | 114 minutes | drama | Actors: Seung-bum Ryoo, Won-geun Lee, Young-min Kim, Guyhwa Choi, Min-seok Son, Ha-dam Jeong, Hyun-Ah Sung, Ji-il Park

Professional agitator Kim Ki-duk continues to surprise. The versatile filmmaker had previously managed to shock his audience to such an extent that after days the vomit had not left the cinema (‘The Isle’, 2000). But he is also not concerned with moving film lovers with contemplative cinema (‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring’ (2003)). ‘The Net’ (‘Geumul’) is less extreme when you compare it to his previous films. The South Korean centipede delivers a compelling, accessible film that highlights the current situation in North and South Korea.

Nam Chul-woo is a poor fisherman who lives in North Korea with his wife and six-year-old daughter. His only significant possession is his fishing boat, which he saved for ten years, and it is the family’s only source of income. Living conditions may not be ideal, but they don’t really pay attention to that in the beginning of ‘The Net’: it’s a status quo; they just deal with it. When Nam tries to retrieve his catch, the bike gets entangled in one of the nets. The North Korean border guards are immediately on the alert: is he crossing over? But there’s nothing you can do about it: Nam lands in South Korea and is immediately captured.

In the days that follow, the hapless man, played incomparably by Seung-bum Ryoo, is a plaything of the political conflicts of the two countries. The South Korean police must find out at all costs whether they have a spy in their midst with Nam after all. The man in charge of the investigation appears to be trying to settle a personal feud by insisting that he is sure he is a spy. Fortunately for Nam, there is also his personal bodyguard, a gentle, honest young man who forms an oasis of humanity among his tough, sadistic colleagues. Although Nam indicates that he wants to go home to his family, his stay in South Korea is extended, in the hope that he will defect. “You can start a new family here,” he is told cheerfully. The methods used to get him to extract the ‘truth’ are degrading in their simplicity. It is easy to imagine that you can lose your grip on reality in a few days. Kim Ki-duk does not choose sides, but shows that serious mistakes are made on both sides of the border.

The message, however, is clear: No ideology is so good that humanity should be banned. And that’s a truth that doesn’t just apply to North and South Korea. ‘The Net’ may be less extreme than the films Kim Ki-duk normally makes, but the urgency of the film is undeniable.

Comments are closed.