Controversial Buddhist filmmaker Kim Ki-duk seldom shies away from tackling a subject that is macabre but with a personal attachment. His films have, for the most part, tackled taboo subject matters like teenage prostitution in Samaritan Girl and sexual slavery in Bad Guy, but at their core there is something intellectually challenging coursing through them to transcend them beyond mere sensationalism. Moebius is naturally no different.
This dialogue-free black comedy tells the tale of an adolescent son (Seo Young-Joo) who is castrated by his mother (Lee Eun-Woo) after discovering their father (Cho Jae-Hyun) has been having an affair with a local shop girl (Lee Eun-Woo again).
The castration scene occurs within the first ten minutes of the narrative and this sets the film’s tone. The film’s themes centres on male desire and most overtly the dictation male’s genitals have for both character and environment. As many of the actions revolve around the son’s lack of a penis it brings about both tragic and (darkly) comedic set pieces.
The dialogue-free narrative reduces many of the characters to their carnal desires, which consequently allows the audience to view the troubling motifs of Freudian psychoanalysis and the Oedipal complex. It is no coincidence that the same actress plays both the mother and the son’s love interest, and it is through this combination of casting and dialogue-free narration that the complex amplifies on-screen.
The amateur digital filmmaking is similar to Takeshi Miike’s Visitor Q in that the audience can clearly see the cameraman’s silhouette, but due to Kim-duk’s prior work this appears more purposeful than mistake. One possible argument for this artistic decision is, along with the dialogue-free narrative, to remind the audience that they are watching fictionalised characters in a fictionalised setting. The film’s incestuous motifs and questionable sexual moments aren’t misconstrued as “real” and to keep the audience at an emotional distance.
Moebius is not easy viewing but is nevertheless satisfying if the audience is able to bypass some of the graphic themes and motifs. The Freudian motifs and the Oedipal complex will satisfy the intellectuals in the audience, and the macabre imagery will satisfy the others. It’s a bold experimental move by the controversial Korean filmmaker.
Moebius was released nationwide 8th August 2014.
Watch the trailer for Moebius here: