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The Isle

Fishing for Love

What is it about the sport of fishing that attracts low-lives, thieves, whores and whoremongers, derelicts, and murderers? It's not just an American phenomenon, either, as evidenced by the troupe of such folk in the center of Kim-Ke Duk's latest directorial effort The Isle, which won the World Cinema Award in the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

On a remote lake somewhere in South Korea, a bedraggled but not-unattractive woman runs a small fishing village. Smallish shacks built upon floats are anchored a ways out in the calm water and the woman ferries her visitors to their floats in a rickety skiff. For the duration of their stay the woman brings them bait, food, beer, and her body. When the men are a bit more discerning she imports young area whores for them.

When a troubled young man shows up at the lake a bond instantly forms between him and the woman. They watch each other from across the water, wordlessly sizing each other up. He's in some sort of legal bind because soon after he arrives the police do also; when it looks like he's going to be found out he attempts suicide in what has to be one of the most graphically nauseating fashions available. She saves him though, both from suicide and from the police, and in the process of nursing him back to life their relationship blossoms, though it certainly isn't a normal one. Theirs is an affair predicated upon hurt, jealousy, pain, and obsession. Oh yeah, and when it's her turn to try and off herself, she ups the goriness ante to such a high level that it makes his suicide attempt look like a warm stack of pancakes.

Beautifully filmed, The Isle is a film about the psychology of love. Sure, there's murder and filthy, bloody, graphic self-mutilation, but the focus of the film is the strange love that blossoms between the two central characters. It's not easy to watch, and the moral lessons and behavioral observations are twisted and perhaps difficult to understand. For some, the suicide scenes may even be too gruesome to move beyond. But it's an interesting piece of work, and it digs up and examines the basest, most animalistic feelings and instincts in its characters, and it just may be worth having a peek.


The Isle
Not Rated
(extremely graphic)
1 hour 25 minutes

Jae Hyun Cho
Hang-Seon Jang
Suh Jung
Seong-Hee Park
Jung Suh