The Isle

Director: Kim Ki-duk
Screenwriters: Kim Ki-duk

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


From South Korea comes The Isle, one of the most challenging yet visually stimulating films to hit the film Festival this season.

Hyunshik, an ex-cop in deep emotional pain and obviously on the lam, arrives at the end of the road, emotionally and literally, where he finds an isolated lake dotted with floating huts--a hotel of sorts--painted, ironically, in the cherry pastels of the 1950s. The hotel serves as a retreat for fishing and a host of other sordid activities. Its proprietor is Heejin, a young woman who is beautiful and elusive. She never speaks, even when supplementing her income by performing sexual favors for her unsavory guests. When the new boarder arrives, she takes an almost predatory approach to winning his attention.

At its core, The Isle is a love story--albeit a surreal one-- a perverse relationship deconstructed, with every emotion boiled down to its most shocking and exaggerated incarnation. Jealousy, lust, revenge, and betrayal are played out amid the serene setting of lake and marsh, pitting all that is raw, human, and flawed against a backdrop of exquisite natural beauty. Director Ki-Duk Kim paints these indelible images with deft strokes, layering metaphor upon metaphor. Hardly a line is spoken as the two characters challenge each other with their painful and bloody antics. Though you may need to look away (especially in the fishhooks scenes), you are left with a sense of triumphant survival--a witness to something at once monstrous and momentous.

Screening Details


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