Why do terrorists exist? Something often lost in discussions about terrorism is that the people who carry out these acts generally aren't crude fundamentalists. Most of them actually have fairly good educations, and have been exposed to modern Western ideals on modern Western terms. So it is with Jeong-goo (played by Byun Yo-han) and Hyo-min (played by Park Jung-min). These young men make and detonate bombs as a protest against modern culture. The perverse part of it is, they hate modernity precisely because they understand that it's terrible based on direct personal experience. That experience being office work.
Yes, there is perhaps some irony in the fact that Byun Yo-han, a man who has become famous for his work on "Incomplete Life" made a movie last year where his character responds to office culture by making bombs. But what really takes "Tinker Ticker" in a weird direction is the way Jeong-goo ends up rejecting anarchist philosophy. It's not that he suddenly decides blowing things up is morally wrong. Rather, the problem is that Jeong-goo becomes less interested in destroying the system when he manages to achieve some mild seniority.
This is thematic territory that actually puts "Tinker Ticker" in close proximity with "10 Minutes"- another film from last year that mostly just deals with the malaise of office life. And "Tinker Ticker" also provides a simiarly unsettling experience where generic desk jobs are are presented kind of like a drug. Sure you might hate it at first, and just wish you were doing something else. But then it becomes so normal that living without the routine becomes kind of unthinkable.
The overall social statement ends up being a rather queer one. Basically, modern capitalism turns us all into robots. Except for those of us who don't get jobs, we don't get to be robots. And this makes us angry, because why is everyone acting like a world filled with robots is a good thing? And why does everybody else get to be a robot except for me? These contradictions might superficially sound nonsensical, but anyone who's been unemployed for an extended period can probably empathize with them.
It is, from this backdrop, that Hyo-min kind-of-but-doesn't-really become the villain. Because as is made clear from the very beginning, Hyo-min is really genuinely disgusted with the system as a whole and would much rather attack it than make compromises. And yet where Jeong-goo initially appears to be hesitant because of moral reasons, it becomes clear the longer "Tinker Ticker" goes on that Jeong-goo can be co-opted into murder, somewhat paradoxically only when the act is framed in ignoble terms.
The stylings of writer/director Kim Jung-hoon are filled with the normal grim indy aesthetic. The explosions do manage to be both understated and convincing- definitely a sign of strong technical direction, and the visuals also emphasize how the overall story is really a lot less flashy than Hyo-min likes to think. Overall "Tinker Ticker" is the kind of film that's probably more interesting to discuss than to actually watch. Even so, that's normally the most any independent film can really aspire to, and the overall product is coherent enough that I can definitely recommend it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Tinker Ticker""
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