Perhaps the most bizarre film at Venice this year, Moebius is also the funniest. South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk’s (2012 Golden Lion Winner for Pieta) latest, is a shocking morality tale exploring the themes of family, desires and genitals.
The Theory of the Moebius is that of a twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop and when we reach that point, whatever happened will happen again. There is also the Mobius strip in mathematics which can be seen as connected as one or some interpret as the twisted strip representing the twisting of meaning in our society. Whichever theory or interpretation we allow ourselves to understand, the film Moebius is all of them combined.
A wife is consumed with hatred towards her husband due to his repeated infidelities. In a moment of anger she goes to cut off the very member that is responsible for the physical unfaithfulness, but she fails to exact the revenge. So she transfers her anger onto the other male of the household, her sleeping son. The mother flees after doing this horrific act and the father is left to deal with the situation. By some rather unusual methods, involving a stone and the rubbing off of skin, the father teaches the son how to pleasure himself minus his manhood. But the son has already become involved with his father’s mistress, a flirty shopkeeper. Along the way he is initiated into a gang by gang raping this woman, but of course he cannot act on this intention without his member. Various incidents occur, resulting in more penis removal until eventually the son ends up with his father’s penis and in true oedipal style, is attracted to his mother instead of the woman he has grown close to.
The lack of names in this description is due to the fact that there is no dialogue in the whole of this film and no names are listed in the promotional material. Dialogue is unnecessary and its absence is quickly forgotten as the actions certainly speak louder than words in this instance. The acts are shocking, but little of the actual penis removal is seen, thankfully. Noises from the characters clearly depict the emotions and pain but the powerful lack of dialogue somehow makes the situation both multifaceted and farcical at the same time. The plot does become increasingly far-fetched and more ridiculous, but intentionally so. The sheer absurdity becomes absolutely hilarious, and in the screening I was in, a large majority of the audience were in fits of laughter. However, this is not a film to seek out merely for a laugh. Moebius is the blackest of black comedies and, whilst its messages do get confused and lost in this outrageous exhibition, the diverse issues and actions are not for the faint hearted.
Interestingly the actress, Lee Eunwoo, who plays the mother, also plays the shopkeeper mistress, although this is very subtly done and I did not even realise until the very end of the film. The actress playing the two characters is extremely in keeping with many films dealing with the theme of desire, Patricia Arquette in David Lynch’s Lost Highway for example or the polar opposite Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire, where two actresses play the same character.
The idea of the nuclear family is really pushed to the extreme here and with wince inducing scenes of sado-masochistic activities and sexual violence on display; you really must go into this film with an open mind. Sure it sounds gratuitous, but strangely the graphic explicitness is necessary and actually the whole premise of the film. Without the ridiculous and extreme, the film would be neither funny nor provocative which is what the deep rooted, if often confused, messages rely on.
An uncut version of the film was shown at Venice, being two and a half minutes longer and containing several scenes of gore and incest, which have been removed from the commercial version.
Moebius is a film that you more than likely will never feel like you want to watch but once you have watched it you will be glad you had, even if you never want to watch it again. It is surprising just how well the actors manage to play these challenging roles and, at times, due to the low-budget aesthetic, I felt like I was watching a warped documentary. This is an extreme film, but it works and astonishingly, is the film that has made me laugh the most this year.
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Writer: Kim Ki-duk
Stars: Cho Jae-hyun, Seo Youngju, Lee Eunwoo
Runtime: 90 mins
Country: South Korea