Analyzing a film that plays with the concept of time is always difficult, and even more in the case of "Invitation", where the way the story unfolds and the fragmented revelation of the events of both the past and the future are part the directorial tactic. Nevertheless, the effort will be made, with as little revealed as possible.
Seventeen years before the main narrative begins, two brothers, older Han Jang-seo and younger Han Choong-seo loved the same woman, Jang Hyeon-jae, at the same time. Although in the beginning it felt like she chose the former, eventually she and the little brother disappeared, after a rather fateful night. At the present, Jang-seo , who has still not realized what happened that night, arrives at the monastery the meeting occurred 17 years ago. In a desperate effort to turn back time, he tracks Heyon-jae and invites her to the monastery, while he desperately tries to make everything look exactly like that night. From the decoration, this involves a painting that is in the hands of its owner, to the drinks, the food, the people there and everything between. At the same time, Han Jang-seo is in a dire financial situation, an alcoholic, and mother to a teenager who deals with fencing and also has a lot of questions.
The most obvious trait of the narrative and the direction is the build-up of the story. Kim In-sik retains a sense of disorientation and doubt, with the back and forths in time creating as many question as the answers they give. The path that inevitably leads to the meeting is labyrinthal and Kim plays with his story in order to add to the mystery and to retain a sentiment of agony that actually lasts from beginning to end.
At the same time, the concept of time and how specific moments and actions can change people's fates is also quite well presented, with Jang-seo's obsession to turn back time, even in simulation terms, adding more depth to the narrative and another very interesting element to the story.
Aesthetically, the film is exceptional, with the work done in the cinematography, the set design, and the editing being excellent in every aspect, as it induces the movie with a captivating combination of mystery, disorientation, and sensualism. Two scenes in particularly, the parallel sex sequence and the dance one, close to the end will definitely linger on mind for both their impact and their artistry. The same applies to the music, although at times, the film could have done with a bit less of it, since it seems to be heard almost constantly. This fault, however, is minor.
Choi Woo-je as Han Jang-seo anchors the film with a great performance that has him exhibiting despair, doubt, danger and acceptance with the same accuracy. Ye Ji-won as Jang Hyeon-jae is also quite good, in a role that has her linger between the lustful femme fatale and the sensitive, alcoholic mother.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Invitation""
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