Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Bow

An old man living on a boat together with a nubile teenage girl, is bound to set tongues wagging. There's nothing dirty about the relationship. He picked her up when she was 6, and looked after her onboard ever since. She has never left the boat; the outside world is unknown to her.

Making a living by ferrying anglers to fish on board his boat in the deep blue sea, the old man is jealously guards his lover from potential lechers. It's a difficult thing to do, considering the girl prances around the ship in skimpy flimsy dresses. Sideline income stems from his ability to tell fortunes in a bizarre manner, well, actually it's the girl who tells the fortunes. Riding a swing at the side of the boat, she smiles sweetly at the old man, while he, from afar in another boat, fires 3 arrows onto a picture of Buddha. She interprets from the position of the arrows (which always narrowly miss her), and whispers the fortune into the old man's ear, who in turn, whispers into the ear of the person who wants his fortune told.

As such, we do not hear the man or the girl speak at all in the film, expressing themselves through body language, eye contact, smiles and touch. The bow in the title refers to the weapon, which is used primarily to fend off, or purposely drive away, lustful men, and in quieter moments, it is adapted by the old man into a stringed musical instrument, to serenade the night away. The girl too uses the bow (and arrows) as a means of self defence.

However, things start to change when a young man joins a group of anglers to fish on board the old man's boat. Taken by the girl's beauty, and the girl by never seeing a young teenage lad, they get smitten with each other and a friendship begins, much to the distraught of the old man. He had plans to marry the girl when she turns 17, and hurriedly brings forward his plan, while driving the young man away.

Undetered, the young man seeks to discover the origins of the young girl, and plans to leave with her. The old man naturally goes into a fit and the relationship between him and the girl deteriorates badly into hissy tantrums from both sides.

The ending is an interesting one, as with most of Kim Ki-duk's movies. Realising that their lives are so intertwined about each other and more, the old man and the young girl consummate their union in one of the most unreal circumstances filled with ambiguous metaphors which will raise eyebrows from the audience, and the young man mirrors the reaction from any viewer, as if Ki-duk expected and saw it coming.

This was the closing film to Singapore's first Korean Film Festival, so for those interested to follow Ki-duk's movies, add this to your list. It's beautiful, though quirky, and the ending scene, quite explainable and left open to your interpretation.

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