Amidst the thunderous roar of the pouring rain and the tumultuous chatter of people on their way home, I found myself escaping with some friends to Mogwai Cinemathequ in Cubao X, Quezon City. And escape we did, to the eerily peaceful world of Kim Ki-Duk’s movie, “3-Iron”.
This movie focuses on the carefree life of the drifter, Tae-Suk. By day, he posts ad flyers on people’s doors. By night, he breaks into those homes where the flyers have not been removed under the assumption that the homeowners are not there. But Tae-Suk isn’t a mere thief. In a way, he is a benevolent spirit who stays in a house for awhile and even fixes it up for the duration of his stay. He washes the laundry, fixes broken appliances, and even cleans up the house.
Such is the way he lives: free and unattached to anything but his motorbike. But all these change, when he discovers something broken in a one of the houses that cannot be fixed quite simply – the battered housewife Sun-hwa. Together, they discover the silent language of love and the freedom that comes from being chained to someone you love.
This unique and somewhat magical plot is brought wonderfully to life by the leads. Jae-Hee is brilliant as Tae-Suk – speaking volumes without a single word throughout the movie. It’s utterly breathtaking how he manages to make his character seem so verbose in the language of silence. Lee Seung-Yeon as Sun-Hwa complements this perfectly thru a nuanced performance of a battered wife. I love how she gives her character a quiet strength that lurks amidst the bruises and cuts from her husband.
Silence is such an important device in this movie. The contrast between Tae-Suk’s natural silence as a drifting spirit and Sun-Hwa’s forced silence as a chained and battered wife is simply a marvel. Its haunting how these characters speak a language of love that exists without words. The eye of Kim Ki-Duk as a director takes this to an even more fantastic level. In his masterful hands, the camera never seems to intrude on the lives of the movie’s characters. Instead, it is much like Tae-Suk – a quiet but benevolent presence that one seems to feel but never truly is conscious of.
With Kim Ki-Duk’s impressive arsenal of art films, 3-Iron may seem peaceful – sometimes, even too peaceful. Because this is a movie that speaks volumes without even uttering a word. It is a movie that requires one to not just hear but listen, and to not just listen with one’s ears but with one’s heart. Simply, put – it is a movie that will leave you speechless, just like its main characters.