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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Fake"

2013/11/08 | Permalink

The attitude this film takes toward organized religion is about as cynical a one as possible. From the very beginning it's clearly indicated that the cult which has become the center of life in a town soon to be destroyed a dam project is a sham designed largely to extort money from desperate people. And yet when one man finally steps up to do something about it, his efforts are rebuffed at every turn. Mainly because this man, Min-Chul (voiced by Yang Ik-june), is impossibly vile and repulsive, provoking disgust not just from other characters but even from the audience.

I hoped constantly throughout this film that someone would murder or debilitate Min-Chul somehow just so I wouldn't have to watch him anymore. He is quite literally the only character in this film working to stop a scam that will impoverish an entire town- and I hated him that much. Enormous credit must be given to Yang Ik-june's vocal performance. The simple cadence of his vicious tone is enough to engender hostility even without the actual context of Min-Chul's motivation.

And the context only works further to paint an incredibly bleak tone on an already bleak world. In many ways Min-Chul's continued survival and motivation relies on stock action hero cliches- but Min-Chul is no hero. His triumphs are not that of good over evil, but rather a glib statement on the uncaring nature of the universe and the arbitrary way it will portion out collective fortunes.

It is against this backdrop that we see the cult. Its promise of a God is a false one- only biding time until the moment comes that the pretense no longer needs to be backed up. And yet even to characters smart enough to see the sham, even this blatant lie is preferable to Min-Chul's horrific blend of atheistic nihilism. Min-Chul's cinematic interpretation of justice is itself a miserable hellish pit that no one would willingly go into. The most awful fates are contrasted against Min-Chul's horrible worldview and somehow manage to come out ahead.

The animation, too, carries this dark visual quality, constantly reminding us that, in all likelihood, the world really is the miserable place that Min-Chul says it is. Nothing about the story's situation is ever going to improve. It will only ever get worse- it will only ever confirm that Min-Chul is right. It's not much of a world to live in. Compared to that even the slightly brighter pastels of the fraudulent church offer something, even if it's not much.

"The Fake" beautifully exposes this contradiction between truth and reality, building a dark world where to believe in something, anything, is an improvement over the status quo. It's a strong challenge to atheistic evangelism, pointing out that elusive second step after proving there's no God. If there's no God, then what? What are we supposed to do next? And what kind of argument is there for someone who already has nothing, no hope, no future, to throw away that sliver of religion just for the sake of being right? "The Fake" offers no joyful platitudes- and this statement in itself is a discomforting reminder for why we live in a world that has so many.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Fake" is directed by Yeon Sang-ho and voiced by Kwon Hae-hyo, Oh Jung-se, Yang Ik-june and Park Hee-bon.

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