A relatively mundane domestic dispute takes on grotesque dimensions in "Moebius", as an act of sexual violence starts to somehow snowball into even weirder and creepier stuff- when the initial act was pretty bizarre to begin with. For what it's worth, these characters are certainly unbalanced enough for it all to be believable. The only language any of these people seem to be able to speak is arousal and humiliation.
Of course, as with most Kim Ki-duk films, the characters here aren't supposed to be real people so much as they are metaphorical representations. And the emotion of choice this time around is lust. It's not a particularly flattering portrait. I can understand, on some level, why a father would be deeply concerned with his son's ability to perform sexually. But that's not a conversation I would ever want to have with my father, because why would I that's insane.
And yet, that's exactly what the modern definition of masculinity is. If we are men because of our sexuality, that is how we're supposed to relate to each other. Such is the case with the man at the center of this drama, played by Seo Young-joo, an actor who's only fifteen years old. Wow. I, uh, would not have guessed that while actually watching the movie. That begs a lot of uncomfortable questions...
...That men in modern culture can't escape just because they're young, as our teenage protagonist soon discovers. It's not just his relationships with other men that are warped- the women in his life are equally as disturbingly fixated on his manhood, and the ensuing sexuality takes on the exact same uncomfortable dimensions. As long as the result is an orgasm, does that make everything OK? That's what the characters seem to think- but seeing the horrific logic of this play out on-screen does a lot to emphasize the dubiousness of that particular belief system.
There's an absurdity to "Moebius" that I can't describe here, because the concepts described sound so bizarre when abstractly described it's difficult to place them in proper context. There was an entire sequence where I just thought to myself "this dong thievery sure is something I don't know what", and while there's an obvious deliberate logic to it all, appreciating the content requires a high-processing mental state. The material is powerfully, deliberately shocking, and if the characters weren't so eerily consistent with the various misshapen emphases they place on the act of orgasm I'd consider it cheap shock value.
But there's no easy solutions for these twisted souls. They spend most of the film's runtime grappling with how to reconcile their cheap orgasmic thrills with the rather awful payment they suffer almost immediately afterwards for their uninhibited sexuality- but "Moebius" is not a film about sin and punishment, or even action and reaction. Every character lives in their own little bubble of sexual desire, never really caring about who or what else they might destroy in the process of living life in terms of maximum pleasure. It's sick, twisted stuff- turn away from the film if you like, but be warned that the reason it cuts so deeply is because even in its depravity, "Moebius"'s power comes from the way it speaks truths about sexual self-destruction . Looking away will save you some squeamishness, but it won't make the situation any less horrific.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Moebius""
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