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Movie Reviews

Im A Cyborg But That’s Ok



Reviewed by:  Frances Taylor

Released: 7th December 2006

Directed by: Park Chan-wook

Starring: Im Su-jeong, Rain

Certificate: 15

After the Vengeance Trilogy, Chan-wook Park certainly had a reputation. Incest, kidnap, violence, his resume reads like a chocolate box for sociopathic torturer. But with his 2006 release I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, Chan-wook reveals his softer side with a romantic comedy set in a psychiatric hospital.

Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim) thinks she is a cyborg. After purposefully giving herself an electric shock working in a transistor radio factory, she is taken to the hospital. If she eats, she will break down, so she lets one of the other patients eat it in order to escape being force-fed. She’s befriends the vending machine, and catches the eye of resident kleptomaniac Il-Soon (Rain, a k-pop megastar).

He begins by stealing a pair of her underpants, Thursday’s, but after attempting to speak to her for the first time, he calls her a ‘psycho’. She corrects him, ‘cyborg’, cowering inside the belly of a grandfather clock. Unable to recharge her batteries, Young-goon grows weaker and weaker, refusing to eat and no longer able to speak. Worried that she will die, Il-soon resolves to help her.

Despite being set in a psychiatric ward, mental illness is not a major theme, and is not explored with any dramatic depth. But neither should it have to be, I liked that it simply afforded an opportunity for the characters to be thrown together and provided the plot with license to be inconsistent and whimsical. The main theme of the picture, is of course, the love story. Conventionally, I’m a Cyborg runs through the tropes of a rom-com; not getting on at first, a misunderstanding, and then overcoming obstacles in order to reach togetherness. The unusual environment of the film keeps things fresh, providing twists and obstacles we haven’t seen in cinema quite so often.

What really makes this film special for me is the cinematography. It’s palette is rich and vibrant, from the opening scene in the factory with the workers in red PVC protective gear, to the surrealist tree painted on the common room wall, to the candy coloured pipes in the bowels of the hospital. The scenes outside of the hospital, in the rain and the forest, or on the hills, are equally as rich, the delirious whimsy soaking through every scene in the picture. Parallels will surely be drawn between cinematographer Seo-Gyeong Jeong and Michel Gondry, especially with The Science of Sleep (2006) as both have very dreamlike qualities in their styles.

The script jumps around, casting it’s net wide over the secondary characters. It’s superfluous, and detracts from the main story at times because there are a lot of them. The story was quite slow moving at times too, and I can understand how this has irritated many a critic. With a mix of ‘reality’ and ‘fantasy’ scenes, the audience could be left somewhat confused at ‘what was real’. I think this was intentional though, with the audience able to take what they wanted from the love story, whether it was all inside on person’s head or another’s. There was a high level of attention to detail, from the tics of the patients to the recurring symbols such as the dentures throughout the film. This helped make it an immersive, well thought out piece.

The two leads are adorable. Su-jeong Lim has huge eyes with hair and a heart to match, and has nailed the detached thousand-mile stare. Rain is good looking, softened by his affection for Young-goon, wearing masks and rabbit ears. The surgery scene is touching and the relationship between them sweet in an innocent kind of way.

Chan-wook Park tried his hand at something that we hadn’t seen from him before, and the result was well worth it. He has commented that he wanted to make a film that his daughters could watch, and the result was a fluffy and enjoyable romantic film about accepting eccentricities and love overcoming boundaries, even if the body count was significantly higher than a Hollywood attempt.

25 year old film fanatic who loves rock music, Xbox and cat videos on Youtube. I also tweet @lewisvstheworld

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