September 29, 2005
I'm not a reviewer. Neither am I a writer. Never have been, although I think posing in some local media is by some admission pretending to be one. I don't have paitence, talent or uncontollable alcoholic psychoticness to truly wrap an idea or a sentence in wistful musings around my little finger. Which I've decided has resulted in my a nice way to approach this film.. and more films to come, as what I want to convey will no doubt be lost in me attempting to construct a somewhat stock standard reveiw platform. Instead of controlled critical objectivism, you'll instead be at the mercy of mere emotional platitude. At least you'll know what I really think... Some of you may not consider that such an advantage, but those dear readers can go fuck themselves if then they're not happy with what they read.. Shall we continue?
Directed by Chang Dong Lee
Oasis contains all the virtues which make Korean cinema what a power house it is today. The film is gritty, shocking and very, very confrontational - yet injected with enough hearfelt quirk to humour even the most cold film viewer. Lucky for Korean Cinema it also happenned to be directed by the man who is today the Minister for the Arts. Good stuff for the industry I say. Funnily enough this film seems tobe more widely recognised outside of Korea. Now that is a pity. Let's begin.
The film moves through a difficult period in Jong-du Hong's life. He is greeted by the audience having just been released from prision back into a world that truly doesn't understand him. It's nothing as abrasive or angst as rebellion on his part, but in a society with rigid social controls and morays he fails to live within his families expectations and is derided and alienated by them. His happy, simpleton demeanor slides uneasily over the family dynamic yet he longs to please. Ultimately it's his family's betrayl that is his tragic downfall.
Having no friends, Jong-du randomly appears at old classmates and stranger's houses whom he has met briefly hoping for some attention. It is on one of these trips he meets Gong-ju, a mentally disabled woman left to fend for herself in a run down flat having been abandoned by her parents for her state appointed upmarket residence. At first Jong du attempts to rape her but is scared off only to be contaced by her later. The two strike up a frinedship and Jongdu attempts to show Gong ju the world her parents have been so afraid (or too selfish) to show her. Inevitably their blossoming affair is confronted by those around them with tragic results.
The movie deals with themes very critical of the Korean pysche: the problems of a rigid confucian mindset, communication, the acceptance and understanding of the mentally disabled in society and what responsible reactions to them are...
Ther performances of the actors is outstanding. So-ri Moon in the most challenging role brings amazing realism and dignity to her role as Gong ju. Her transformation from spastic to dancer is truly magnificent during the dream sequences. How she did not drown under awards and accolades for this performance is beyond me. However it is Kyung-gu Sol as simple Jongdu that keeps you entranced. Somewhat ironically it is Jong du's attenuated demeanor that keeps you electried and so drawn into the drama. This is the true mark of a great actor and both leads work outstandingly well together.
There is an equiste touch to the film where by the viewer is put under the spell that this story is accompanied by wonderous illistrations...perhaps a picture book of a movie... or better yet, each passage of the movie is complimented by a richly decorated and ornate first letter of the passage. Something akin to old celtic calligraphic decorations.
One such mark is where we are first introduced to Gong ju and she is playing with a broken mirror watching the reflected light round the room dissolve into butterflys. The audience is lead to believe that this is what the world of a simpleton is... where as although Gong ju has cerebal palsy/is mentally retarded , she is actually far from idiocy and in a short time one begins to wonder exactly how much of our modern world do we except on face value? How free are victims of such afflictions allowed to make decisions.. especially with regard to decisions as taboo as sex.
Oasis is a post-modern day masterpiece. If there is only one Korean film you see.... Cut that.. if there is only one film you ever see in you life, make it this one. Tragic, funny, confronting, heartfelt: Oasis is magic. Decorating Gong jus wall is a picture of an Oasis: a childish picture book escape. A place we all long for safe and comforting from a hositle world that isn't meant for us.
Humanity is a concept we're still groping with.