Film: "Night Fishing"
Review Score: 7.5/10
This fantastical short film by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook and his brother Park Chan-kyong, was the centre of much discussion when it was finally release at the beginning of 2011. "Night Fishing" (aka "Paranmanjang: Ups and Downs") was shot on Apple's iPhone 4 and it came to represent the type and quality of stories that could be made with mobile devices. The Park brother played with a budget of 150 million Won (approximately $133,000) that was provided by the South Korean telecommunications company KT; that's the same company that manages iPhone sales in Korea. Although the film's marketing potential is blaringly obvious, what makes the film really shine is it's not simply that it was shot on a mobile phone camera, but rather how the camera's visual capabilities and restrictions complimented the film's dreamy narrative mechanics and visceral sense of itself#.
The dreamy tale resembles more of a living myth than a piece of cinema as we are lured into a world where time, space, and existence are as blurry and stained as the images the iPhone produced. A fisherman, with an enchanting melody scoring his actions, navigates his way through a forest to his spot. The gentle evening light blasts the screen with yellows, while other 'artificial' colours are heavy saturated and seems to pop out at you. It's an unnerving colour palette that offsets the first act of the film, but is soon replaced by grainy black and white as the night act abruptly steps in.
The film's story is a relatively uncomplicated one, which gave the directors time to reflect and take their time on screening this dream. Watching our fisherman gut a fish becomes a 'hyper-real' experience as the blade exposes the deep saturated red of the fish's blood and guts. The camera seemed to be attached to the table on which the fish is being hacked up, shaking and blurring the images hypnotically as our stomach turns from the spectacle. By slowing down actions and events, "Night Fishing" manages to weave it's own mythos into the aesthetic make-up of the story itself. The results the brothers achieved gorgeously compliments the fantasy elements of the piece as images and movements are tracked by there own past and future.
As night falls, the film switches to high-contrast black and white, with the frames edges almost nonexistent as the darkness of the night engulfs this man and his encounter with the spiritual world. The film's visuals definitely steal the stage, but the quality of the film's sound is the glue that seals the deal. As the fisherman is waiting on his lines cast out into the river, the bells go off on one of his rods. In an attempt to reel whatever it is that is caught on his hook, the fisherman entangles himself in his own lines and is suddenly joined by a young women who appears in place of the fish he yanks in. Like a puppet whose master has pasted away without freeing his creation, our fisherman struggles to rid himself of this young woman's corpse. The irony of this moment is just one of many layered symbolic actions that refuse to draw a line between the 'real' and the imaginary, the dream world and memories.
The woman caught in his line comes to life, hacking up a slimy liquid into the mouth of her catch. It is this transference of fluids that marks his final moments of 'life' in this world. The last act of the film seemingly takes place in the future, where the man's family is holding a ceremony in order to channel his spirit and, ultimately, cut his ties to their world. This act is cleverly layered from the previous, as the mysterious woman of the lake begins to speak the words of the man's young daughter. It's a haunting transition that highlights yet another technical aspect of this film that the Park brothers utilised in spite of the technical limitations of the production. The editing of the film is its secret weapon here, as images and movement are skillfully weaved together to create a thrilling synthesis of meaning and thought, all the while drawing you deeper into the magic and wonderment of it all.
I've been patiently waiting to watch this film for some time now, and having finally had the change to watch it I have begun to understand why it walked away with the Golden Bear for Best Short Film and the 61st Berlin International Film Festival. It's a slow hypnotic stroll into madness and the surreal as "Night Fishing" dances in the land of shadows and dreams. It's a technical achievement all on its own, and despite the film's modest aims and production, "Night Fishing" is a marvelous trip.
- C.J Wheeler (E-mail: email@example.com, Twitter: @Chriscjw85)
Available on DVD from YESASIA
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