The Net

The Net poster

The Net movie poster

For his latest feature, prolific Korean writer/director Kim Ki-duk uses a familiar premise – the border between South and North Korea as seen in his 2002 film The Coast Guard  – to underline the absurdity of a country divided in two antagonized but so similar halves.

The Net follows a North Korean fisherman’s harrowing journey as he struggles to survive and find his place in two worlds.  Following a problem with his small fishing boat motor getting caught in a net, Nam Chul-woo (Ryoo Seung-bum) ends up on the South Korean coast and gets investigated as a suspected spy. Upon returning home, he undergoes the same treatment, the North-Korean secret police fearing he got turned by the other side.

As it’s often the case with Mr. Ki-duk’s body of work, The Net isn’t easy to watch as it mostly features scenes of mental and physical abuse perpetrated on both sides of the border.  What’s absurd here is that despite hating each other, both South and North Korea are shown as having a similar behavior towards Nam. Even though he has no other ambition than going back to his family and being faithful to his country, both secret polices suspect him of being a spy, which ends up affecting his sanity and make him feel like he’s losing his identity.

But the most interesting part is undoubtedly how Mr. Ki-du shows us North and South Korea from opposite – brainwashed – perspectives: On one hand, South Korea thinks its capitalistic democratic system is synonym with happiness and doesn’t understand that Nam doesn’t want to defect – in probably the only amusing sequence here, he closes his eyes when left in a shopping street to avoid being “contaminated”.  On the other hand, the poor, dictatorial North Korea also claims to hold the key to happiness, away from capitalistic temptations. Except that Nam witnesses officials’ corruption and hypocrisy in both the South and the North, which will add to his disillusion and despair.

As its’ often the case with his movies, Mr. Ki-duk’s dialogues are pretty bare while, visually, he keeps us in a gray area, probably hinting that there’s no black or white in this world. There are also some great performances from Ryoo Seung-bum as well as Kim Young-min as the cruel investigator.

While the title of this movie obviously refers to the fishing net stuck to the boat, this is also a metaphor for the ideological net Nam got caught in and, to an extent, for a movie that successfully traps his audience.

Director: Kim Ki-duk – Actors: Guyhwa Choi, Lee Won Gun – Running Time: 1:45 – Year: 2016 – Country: South Korea
Click here to watch the The Net trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.
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