- 1 hr 40 min
Arirang is a deeply introspective and personal film from renowned Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk. The film takes its name from a traditional Korean folk song that speaks of the yearning for someone who has gone away and not yet returned. In this case, the subject of the yearning is Kim himself, who retreated to a remote cabin in the Korean mountains following a personal crisis.
The film is shot entirely within this cabin and its surroundings, and serves as a sort of confessional for Kim. He speaks directly to the camera throughout much of the film, sharing his innermost thoughts, fears, and regrets. The cabin becomes a metaphor for his internal state, as he struggles to make peace with himself and his past mistakes.
The film is divided into chapters, each of which explores a different aspect of Kim's psyche. In one chapter, he reflects on his childhood and the ways in which it has shaped his identity. In another, he grapples with his own mortality and the fear of a life wasted. Throughout the film, he incorporates elements of performance art, such as painting and music, to express and further explore his emotions.
Arirang is a deeply symbolic film, with much of its meaning open to interpretation. Kim references the myths and legends of Korean culture, such as the story of the tiger and the bear, to explore themes of conflict, reconciliation, and a search for balance. He also engages with Buddhist concepts, such as the idea of reincarnation, to reflect on the cyclical nature of life and death.
Despite its intensely personal nature, Arirang is also a universal film, tackling themes that are common to the human experience. Kim's struggles with loneliness, self-doubt, and the desire for connection are things that many viewers will be able to relate to. At the same time, the film is unique to Kim's own perspective, and its raw emotion and vulnerability is a testament to his courage as an artist.
Visually, the film is stunning, with Kim making full use of the natural beauty of his surroundings. He captures the mountains, trees, and animals of the Korean wilderness with an almost mystical reverence, using them to further explore his own sense of awe and wonder at the world around him. The film's minimalist soundtrack, consisting mainly of silence and the sounds of nature, adds to its meditative and introspective quality.
Arirang is not a conventional film, and it may not be for everyone. Its slow pace and non-linear structure can be challenging, and its highly personal nature means that it may be difficult for some viewers to connect with. However, for those willing to engage with it on its own terms, Arirang is a powerful and moving work of art, offering a unique insight into the mind and soul of one of Korea's greatest directors.