Can we really change? Are we allowed to embrace changes in everyday life? Is there really a way out in this confusing era where morality, sexuality and values get entangled in a way that defies clear judgment calls?
"Possible Changes", released yesterday, tackles such bewildering questions by zooming in on the gloomy, lonely lives of two men. Notable is the opening scene where Moon-ho (Jung Chan
) and Jong-kyu (Kim Yu-seok
) sit on the edge of a cliff and watch the sea together.
It is relatively easy to see that the cliff symbolizes the precarious situations forcing modern (or postmodern) people to find some solutions. The sea, accordingly, points to the ideal possibility that can reshape their frustrating life.
Clear-cut interpretation, however, stops right there. From this point on, director Min Byeong-kook
, who had worked as an assistant director in the 1998 film "Power of Kangwon Province" with director Hong Sang-soo
, tells a puzzling story whose theme is deeply elusive.
Moon-ho and Jong-kyu are childhood friends. In their mid-thirties, they seem to have no clear direction in their life - except for a towering, uncontrollable desire to have sex with women.
They together sleep with a woman they happen to seduce in a restaurant - a menage-a-trois affair, which is rarely described in a Korean film. Embedded in a graphic scene is the connection that binds the two men as well as a faintly distinctive line that separates the two.
The fact that they commit the extramarital one-off affair together implies their connection in terms of human desire. They sort of acknowledge and support their libido. They are willing to go as far as they can, if the situation permits them to do so together.
But the two men are intriguingly different. It is Jong-kyu who first makes a move toward the woman. In fact, Jong-kyu never hides his sexual desire and is quick to put some action into his fantasy. His physical handicap (perhaps due to a paralyzing disease) accentuates his eccentricity.
So it is hardly surprising that Jong-kyu asks the woman to do some quirky acts on the bed, which she refuses vehemently. Yet it is too early to conclude that Jong-kyu is a hopeless pervert. Or the only pervert. When the squabble takes place on the bed, Moon-ho, who is sitting naked in the corner, suddenly stands up and hits the woman on the head, revealing his raw, animalistic aspect.
Moon-ho's sudden burst of violence is all the more shocking because he has been quite silent and reserved until that moment. His dualism is revealed further as the story unfolds in connection with his other affair.
Moon-ho's is an author, but it seems that he is not a popular writer. Even whether he has ever published any book is not clear. What is evidently suggested here is that he has a knack for writing shamelessly romantic letters - not to his loyal wife but to a woman he meets through online chatting.
Moon-ho is also adept at telling lies about his job and other details when he attempts to seduce Yoon-jung, a successful securities firm employee. After they sleep together in a shabby hotel, Yoon-jung tells him that their affair is now over. But this supposedly intellectual worker does not give up on his unlimited desire. "Please, let's meet just once again", he implores.
The director shows how Moon-ho sets up an excuse and deceives his wife to meet the woman for an affair, a technique that is widely known by director Hong Sang-soo
and his candid yet sarcastic films.
The same penetrating perspective is applied to the wandering of Moon-ho's best friend Jong-kyu, who is now staging an affair with his first love, Soo-hyun (Shin So-mi). He visits a provincial university where his college sweetheart is teaching. Sadly, Soo-hyun is married to a successful prosecutor.
Jong-kyu and Soo-hyun end up in an expensive hotel. A hilarious moment comes when Jong-kyu, a researcher who does not make much money, asks her to use her credit card for the hotel room, only to get rejected.
He pays the bill, but things do not go as he wishes. Jong-kyu wants to revive the relationship with his sweetheart seriously, imagining that he might redesign his life altogether.
However, Jong-kyu is stuck with his life and continues to maintain an illicit relationship with an office colleague, who has to go through an abortion due to their careless sex. Is there real love between Jong-kyu and the colleague? Not really. But the director seems to tell something when he places the ill-fated couple in a dirty hotel room near the Han River. The reason: the female colleague wants to sleep in a hotel overlooking a bridge - another symbolism for hope.
The last scene is particularly confusing largely because it is the first scene where the two men are sitting together on the cliff, watching the sea. The difference is that an incident takes place, but its implication in the movie - whether changes are possible in our boring, immoral life - is hard to guess.
In a press screening, director Min had to answer the ultimate question regarding the last scene, but his answer was as puzzling as the movie itself: "I don't know".
By Yang Sung-jin