Although their careers span different decades, both Kim Ki-Young and Kim Ki-Duk are known as mavericks, as audacious outsiders each of whom created his own position within Korean film history. Ironically, in each case, the problematic nature of the relation between the filmmaker and the industry can also be seen to be reflected in the complex relations between a given protagonist and the world of the film that sustains her/him. These relations will be a focus of my lecture.
Here I envision the film not merely the neutral presentation of a world the character inhabits but a system that generates and conditions the subjects of that system, the relation between the system and the subjects thus conceived I will call the “ecology” of the film. In the films of Kim Ki-Young I see a tension between the character’s subjectivity (and drives for self-realization) and the narrative template in which the subject is embedded. Examples will include the folk-tale of Yangsando, and the embedded flashbacks in the detective work of Iodo.
The relation of character to filmic discourse in the work of Kim Ki-Duk seems at once more streamlined and more intrusive, a kind of internalized post-authoritarian hangover. Kim’s plots and the spectacles of violence and abjection have often been labeled “subversive.” I would ask, subversive of what. On the contrary, I will argue that while the images might be extreme, the narrative strategies as articulated through the psycho-political constitution of the character’s situations are remarkably compliant with the demands of the Other, and the narrative trajectories plot rather non-redemptive survival strategies.
Earl Jackson, Jr., Associate Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Cruz, is currently Professor at National Chiao Tung University, and Co-Director of the Trans-Asian Screen Cultures Institute. His publications include Strategies of Deviance, and numerous articles on Japanese and Korean cinema. He is currently finishing a book on anime. He has worked as screenwriter for the film Kyeong (Viewfinder) (Kim Jeong 2008), and played the villain in Barbie (Yi Sangwoo 2010).