CASTAWAY ON THE MOON (2009)
Director: Lee Hae-jun
Run time: 1h 56m
A man becomes a castaway on a deserted island on the Han River in this hilarious, touching and stunningly shot off-beat masterpiece
The absurdity of the human condition and the toil of its modern incarnation have managed to be wrapped up within this profound romantic comedy.
It is a film that can easily take you by surprise if unprepared for the emotional depth it offers. One aspect which grows and thrives throughout is our investment in the two main characters – we cheer them on, grow frustrated with them and plea for a final meeting that might give us some closure.
It encapsulates some of the best aspects of Korean cinema – it is uniquely Korean (set on the deserted Bamseom isle on the Han River), provides lashings of social commentary, while managing to be funny, sad and strange.
Jobless and crippled by debt, Kim Seong-geun (Jung Jae-young) decides to jump off a bridge into the Han River, but instead just washes up on the shore of Bamseom.
Unable to swim back, he starts to learn how to survive as a castaway, building a new life of solitude away from the trappings of society.
We then meet Kim Jung-yeon (Jung Ryeo-won) – a hermit in her parents’ home who is obsessed with Korean social media site Cyworld, where she leads the fake existence as an outgoing fashionista.
From her long lens camera Jung-yeon spots Seong-geun on the isle and suspects him of being an alien. The pair start to exchange messages through Seong-geun's scrawling on the beach and Jung-yeon's notes in a bottle.
As Seong-geun tries to grow crops on the island and Jung-yeon largely watches on, the forces of nature and authority threaten to disrupt his new life.
Castaway on the Moon is a film which could easily have fallen into a wide array of common pitfalls – too quirky to be taken seriously, too obviously preachy to be profound.
It falls into none of these, instead taking the audience on a journey where the personal investment in the developments is what makes cinema such an emotive experience.
The film’s superb technical handling enables this emotional depth to be reached more easily – Director Lee carves out a host of fine frames. Such shots include a blissfully bored Seong-geun lying in the island’s grass enjoying his new freedoms and Jung-yeon elevating in a gravity-less fashion as she uses her camera.
The performances of both Jung Jae-young and Jung Ryeo-won also enables us to connect and emphasis with both characters, a vital element in the film sticking its landing with perfection.
Our societies are laid bare here too. The obsession with technology and a social media presence, the crippling debts and the implications of self-isolation. How the affluence of Seoul is also packed with these elements.
Castaway on the Moon is a beautiful cinematic experience. Watch it, revel in it and beseech as many others as possible to do the same.
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