15th Oct2014

‘Moebius’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jae-hyeon Jo, Eun-woo Lee, Young-ju Seo | Written and Directed by Ki-duk Kim


After watching Moebius I’ve taken a few days to write the review because I needed to consider just what I think about it.  If you take it at face value it is a South Korean film about sex, guilt and family that pushes you to the edges of depravity then takes a few more steps just to see if it can shock you some more…all without a word being said.

When a housewife (Lee Eun-Woo) discovers her husband (Cho Jae-Hyun) is cheating she attacks him with a knife with the aim of castration in a move of jealous retribution.  When the husband fights back and her attempt fails she turns to their son (Seo Young-Joo) as her victim, successfully attacking the teen and humiliating not only him but the father too, before disappearing off into the night.

The synopsis above pretty much sums up what we see in the first moments of Moebius, the wife disappears for most of the movie and we see how the father and son deal with the issues of castration and how to deal with a life where things will never be the same, especially when it comes to sex.  The fact that the father has his penis removed so that it can be transplanted onto his son when a successful method is found says a lot about the effects of the mothers attack and the relationship between parent and child.

Moebius is a film that focuses on sex and the family, so two disfigured men who can’t have sex is a bit of a problem.  The fact that the father finds an answer to finding sexual gratification through pain is just another twist of the knife into the nerves of the audience, as writer and director Ki-duk Kim further pushes them to the limits of taste and their viewpoints of depravity.  It’s not that Moebius is particularly explicit in the content that it shows, it’s more the subjects that it touches on and the emotional repercussions of people’s actions.  Sadism, rape and incest aren’t things that are seen as a walk in the park to most audiences.

There are many interpretations we can come up with when watching Moebius, especially around the family.  One strong theme is the emasculation of the males of the family.  When the mother takes action and then disappears the father and son have to deal with what is left, when she returns she again has the power, even without raising a knife (though other things do rise).  There is also a strong feel that the director is saying that sex has become so important in our world that it controls us, not only in the family dynamic but also outside of it.  This can be seen in the relationship between the son and his father’s mistress.  The fact that they do find a sexual release together but through pain says a lot about the guilt that affair and actions of the son himself creates.

Whatever we personally see in Moebius the fact is you can’t take it just at face value.  Behind all the violence, strange sexual practices and extremes Ki-duk Kim makes us a witness to there is a message that is being conveyed, it is for us to find our own interpretation.  There are no wasted scenes in Moebius, everything has a meaning and you do find yourself questioning things as simple as the importance of a dog statue placed at the top of the stairs of the family home. It keeps you thinking, even when things may have no relation to each other at all, maybe they actually do?

When getting past the extreme nature of the film the most impressive thing is that this is in fact a silent movie.  Everything conveyed to the audience is done through body language and actions.  There are certain hints such as internet searches about penis transplants, but other than that there is no dialogue between the characters at all.  This obviously opens the movie even more to the audience’s interpretation of what they see, and that is where Ki-duk Kim really excels in the movie, that we are able to understand what is going on without having to be told or influenced by the characters..

Is Moebius for you? That really depends.  This is a film that wants to test how much you can take and it takes what you see to the extremes.  If you are a fan of Asian cinema that wants to make you think and doesn’t care what your limits are? Then give Moebius a try, just consider yourself warned.

****½  4.5/5

Moebius is out on DVD now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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