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Q&A: Kim Ki-duk on Transgressive Thriller, “MOEBIUS”

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Kim Ki-duk has a reputation. If one isn’t directly familiar with the filmmaker’s complex, confrontational work, it likely sounds ugly and abject. It can be. For audiences of a certain taste however, the director’s filmography is also layered with horror, experimentation and terrifically dark comedy.

MOEBIUS, his latest, may just be the most notorious. The film is a dialogue-free chronicle of a family in sexually violent turmoil. When a wife, fed up, attempts to castrate her husband and fails, she instead takes out the violent act on her son and subsequently disappears. The two men, both distraught and member-less after the father severs himself in solidarity, then take solace and pleasure in increasingly horrific manner with his mistress (essayed, as is the mother, by Lee Eun-woo).

I’ve seen friend Nina Riddel interpret the film in a wonderfully succinct, biting manner: “no matter what you do to men, they will still get off on it.” I think she might be right. MOEBIUS’ narrative is constantly blurring lines—between pain/pleasure, family/sexual desire, grotesque horror/black humor—and it does so by allowing its characters to act on impulse, removed from any considered thought or release through conversation and exchange.

After a raucous festival run, MOEBIUS is currently widening eyes on VOD. Kim Ki-duk spoke to FANGORIA about the film and his intent.

FANGORIA: When audiences hear about MOEBIUS, be it story or how graphic it is, they may not expect it to be so funny. How did you want to use humor and dark comedy in the film?

KIM KI-DUK: Rather than films that are intentionally funny, I think of comedy films as what make viewers laugh by frankly revealing uncomfortable, hidden truths on screen. Viewers laughed when they saw sexual desires, emotions, and other facts about sex depicted so realistically in this film. I also laughed a lot while shooting and editing it.

On the other hand, South Korean audiences were afraid of the film because it violated the ethical standards. I think this is a comedy. This film talks about the purity and innocence of human nature.

Because we have been living so long with our nature covered and distorted, revealing ourselves as we are can be fearful. However, it can also be comical depending on your cultural background.

FANGF: The lack of dialogue seems to bring every character to act on impulse. Was that your intent in experimenting with a wordless film?

KIM KI-DUK: It might be. Dialogue is used to reveal or distort a truth, or explain a character’s action, but I didn’t want those to impact the film. I wanted actions to be the only messengers that convey characters’ emotions. In my other films, THE ISLE; 3-IRON; BAD GUY; SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING; etc, I believe limited dialogue has brought sincerity to characters in each film.

I think this is a cinematic technique rather than an idea. Reality, facts and truths are what consist our lives. Reality is made up by rumors spread on social media, facts are events that really happen, although we may not see, and truths are events that hold humanistic values. In this aspect, I believe that a film can be at its closest to truths and facts when it doesn’t have dialogue.

FANG: The dialogue also brings a theatricality to the film. Were you inspired by tragedies of the stage, at all?

KIM KI-DUK: I have never read tragicomedies of the western countries or those of Ancient Greek literature. I didn’t even study literature or screenplay writing. However, I do hear a lot that I use theatrical or literary dialogue in my films. I don’t understand why. I have been writing in the same style since I first began to write scripts. It is my own style of screenplay writing and a method of expression.

FANG: As a filmmaker, are you interested in confronting and understanding taboo?  MOEBIUS seems less about shock value than understanding a connectedness, be it the same climax from ultimate pain or pleasure, or even with Eun-woo Lee portraying a mother and a younger woman of desire.

KIM KI-DUK: I think taboo is not taboo anymore when it exceeds its limit. Historically, there are taboos in every area including politics, humanity, religions, desires, and wars. I believe that there are adequate reasons for creating taboos, but I also believe we can unravel the secrets behind closed doors through writings, paintings, music and films. Everything is possible as long as it is expressed humanely.

Incidents around the world happen because everyone has a different standard of conscience. It is a problem when we try to express the difference in the real world, but questioning through a film unravels the secrets of human history. MOEBIUS had to go through three times of editing due to the strong censorship in South Korea. I followed the policy because it is a law, but I think it is also one of the taboos we should overcome.

For more on MOEBIUS, visit RAM RELEASING

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman

Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.

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