Connect with us

Featured Review

Berlinale 2024 – A Traveler’s Needs ★★★★



Released: Berlinale 2024

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Lee Hyeyoung, Kwon Haehyo, Cho Yunhee, Ha Seongguk

Each year, there is always one cert during film festival season: one or maybe two films from Hong Sang-soo. The South Korean auteur is a non-stop arthouse machine that continues experimenting and exploring the topics closest to his heart. In 2012, he collaborated with one of world cinema’s finest actors, Isabelle Huppert, in his film In Another Country and then again in 2017 with Claire’s Camera. Now, they have reunited for A Traveler’s Needs, which debuted in competition at Berlinale 2024.

The film follows a woman who nobody knows where she comes from. She sits on a park bench and diligently plays a child’s recorder. She says she is from France, and with no money or means of supporting herself, she has been advised to teach French. This is how she comes to have two Korean women as her pupils. The woman likes to walk barefoot and lie down on rocks. And when she is feeling up to it, she tries to see each instant nonverbally and live as rationally as possible. But things remain challenging as ever. She relies on the Korean alcoholic drink of makgeolli to provide a bit of comfort every day.

Hong Sang-soo’s exploration of language, culture and travel is an ethereal delight. While language barriers can separate us, human bonds and connections serve a higher purpose. The camera sits still and allows the dialogue and body language to tell this tale. Within these still-expressive moments, we gage into the minds of these characters and reflect upon ourselves. Sang-soo digs deep into the loneliness of travel and dealing with new surroundings so well; in his previous work with Huppert, there is a happy-go-lucky essence to it all, but within A Traveler’s Needs, we are witnessing a more profound emotive odyssey.

Isabelle Huppert does the brunt work for Sang-soo; in every scene, you can sense her presence and solitude. I’ve not felt this sad in one of his films for some time, but I related to Huppert’s mysterious character. Being somewhere new with a language barrier isn’t easy, but the people you encounter on the journey make it rewarding and enrich the experience. The simplicity in the choreography of the journey allows for mindfulness; witnessing Huppert doing simple things like eating, playing a recorder, or napping gives the viewer time to digest it all. What is Sang-soo trying to say? What should I be feeling right now? Seeing his work honestly is a transcendental experience. There are multiple reasons for being in A Traveler’s Needs, and that’s why it’s rewarding.

Hong Sang-soo’s consistency in his experimental work is tantalising for the mind with his enthralling body of work. After his experimental film in water last year, the world must have wondered where he would go next. The essence of A Traveler’s Needs is simple but richly dense. Witnessing his reunion with Isabelle Huppert almost feels like a second coming, which has made it a holy trilogy from the duo.

Lover of all things indie and foreign language. Can be found rambling on YouTube at times!

Just For You