The Bow

"Excellent"

The Bow Review


Why am I always throwing bouquets at Korean filmmakers? I guess because they keep thrilling me. Sure, Korea produces more than its fair share of teen sex romps and ghost stories (most of which are better than their American correlatives, by the way), but its current wave of daring writers and directors keeps coming up with the most amazing pieces of filmmaking, one after another.

Case in point: Kim Ki-duk, whose 14 films span every genre from action thriller to David Lynchian psycho-thriller to the ravishing Buddhist meditation Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring. How does the guy come up with this stuff?

One of Kim's most recent films, The Bow, is a fascinating drama set entirely on a rotting 40-foot boat anchored off the coast of Korea. An old man (Jeon Seong-hwang) maintains it as a fishing platform for tourists with the help of a beautiful 16-year-old girl (Han Yeo-reum) who appears to be mute. But what is she doing living on this boat with this old man?

Visitors to the boat chat about the rumors. He brought her out when she was just six years old. Her parents are looking for her. He plans to marry her on her 17th birthday. The stories sound farfetched, as does the idea that the old man is also a fortune teller, but they all turn out to be basically true. She is everything to him: a kidnap victim/daughter/girlfriend/fiancée. The old man fends off the fishermen to who try to cop a feel by shooting arrows at them while the girl just smiles. She's not a bad archer either and is more than capable of protecting herself. When he's not wielding the bow as a weapon, the old man converts it into a musical instrument and plays it like a violin.

The old man's arrangements start to come apart when the boat is visited by a fishing party that includes a sweet-natured student (Seo Si-jeok) who falls in love with the girl at first sight and is profoundly concerned about her situation. She, too, falls for him, and the old man starts to fear that his marriage day, carefully marked on his calendar, may never come to pass.

Most of what happens on the boat happens without words. The old man and the girl communicate only through glances, none more telling than when she rides a swing suspended off the side of the boat while he shoots arrows in her direction from another boat in order to tell fortunes. These are lyrical and mysterious scenes. Whether or not the two belong together, they have a deep connection, and Kim is totally successful in making their relationship riveting and unforgettable.

The DVD comes with a great "making of" featurette that shows Kim's absolute commitment to his craft. Why did they shoot during the winter instead of the spring? "Because I don't like waiting around," says Kim, who, it turns out, does most of the film's bow-and-arrow shooting himself. Meanwhile, in true Asian fashion, the young actress Han, who is great in the film, apologizes to the audience for not doing a better job and promises to strive to try harder in her future endeavors. You just want to give her a hug.

Aka Hwal.

She's no Geena Davis!



The Bow

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 12th May 2005

Budget: 10

Distributed by: Tartan Films

Production compaines: Kim Ki-Duk Film, Happinet Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Seo Ji-seok as Student, Jeon Kuk-Hwan as Student's Father, Seong-hwang Jeon as Old Man, Yeo-reum Han as Young Girl, Seok-hyeon Jo as Third Man

Also starring:

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