Birdcage Inn

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"Same age, same space and different lifeā€¦"
  • 1998
  • 1 hr 40 min
  • 7.0  (1,967)

Birdcage Inn is a 1998 South Korean film directed by Kim Ki-duk, which tells the story of a young woman, Sun-Jae, who moves to the city in search of work and ends up staying at a guesthouse run by a dysfunctional family. The guesthouse, named the Birdcage Inn, is located close to the train station in downtown Seoul and is run by a middle-aged woman named Mi-Jin, her older husband, and their teenage daughter, Cho-Hee. The inn is a somewhat seedy establishment, catering mostly to truckers and other working-class people passing through the city. The family lives on the premises and manages the inn together, but they are hardly a happy nuclear unit.

Mi-Jin is a nagging, controlling woman who is resentful of her husband's lack of ambition and always pushing him to do more work. Meanwhile, her husband, Chang-Won, is an ineffectual man who spends most of his time sleeping or drinking, and barely contributes to the running of the inn. Cho-Hee, the only child in the family, is a lazy and rebellious teenager who resents her parents' constant bickering and just wants to escape the drudgery of her life.

Into this volatile mix comes Sun-Jae, a young woman from the countryside who has come to the city to look for work. She finds a job as a waitress at a nearby restaurant but is unable to afford rent in the city. When she sees a sign advertising a cheap room at the Birdcage Inn, she decides to take it.

Sun-Jae is initially charmed by the family, especially Mi-Jin's kindness towards her. Chang-Won, who is starved for attention, becomes infatuated with her and starts to dote on her, much to Mi-Jin's annoyance. Cho-Hee also develops a friendship with Sun-Jae and starts to open up to her about her own problems. However, as time passes, Sun-Jae starts to see the cracks in the family's façade. She realizes that Mi-Jin is a controlling and manipulative woman who treats her husband poorly and has little regard for her own daughter's feelings.

As Sun-Jae becomes more aware of the family's inner workings, she starts to feel trapped and suffocated by their dysfunction. She is torn between her desire to help Cho-Hee escape her unhappy home life and her fear of getting too involved with a family that seems poised to self-destruct.

The film is a dark and haunting exploration of family dynamics and the ways in which people can be trapped by their circumstances. It is a slow-paced film that relies on long, silent shots to convey the sense of isolation and despair that pervades the characters' lives. The harsh, unyielding cityscape of Seoul serves as a contrast to the fragile beauty of Sun-Jae, who is both resilient and vulnerable in equal measure.

The performances in the film are outstanding, especially from Ji-eun Lee as Sun-Jae, who conveys a fragile and ethereal quality that makes her stand out from the gritty realism of the rest of the film. The supporting cast is also excellent, with Hye Eun Lee and Jae-mo Ahn bringing depth and nuance to their roles as Mi-Jin and Chang-Won.

Overall, Birdcage Inn is a haunting and deeply affecting film that is not easily forgotten. It is a testament to Kim Ki-duk's skills as a director and storyteller, and a must-see for fans of South Korean cinema.

Birdcage Inn
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  • Release Date
  • Runtime
    1 hr 40 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (1,967)