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I-eoh Island (I-eodo) (1977)

Director : Kim Ki-Young
Production Company : Dong A Exports Co., Ltd
Date of Rate : 1977-10-04
Running Time : 110 min.
Genre : Literary Art

Staff :
Writer : Lee Cheong-Jun
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Ha Yu-Sang
Producer : Lee Wu-Seok
Director of PhotoGraphy : Jeong Il-Seong
Gaffer : Seo Byeong-Su
Music : Han Sang-Ki
Art Director : Lee Myeong-Su
Editor : Hyeon Dong-Chun

Cast(Actor/Actress) :
Lee Hwa-Si, Kim Jeong-Cheol, Choi Yun-Seok, Kwon Mi-Hye, Park Jeong-Ja

Synopsis

On visiting the small island of Parang, near Jeju, Sun Wu-hyun recalls the events that occurred four years ago. A director of planning for a travel agency at the time, Wu-hyun hosts a promotional boating event for the construction of a new hotel in Jeju, to be named after the mythical island of "I-eoh." On the boat to cover the event a trip in search of I-eoh Island reporter Chun Nam-suk suddenly insists that the trip must be abandoned and demands that they turn the boat around immediately. Sun, however, ignores his plea. That night, Chun goes missing from the boat and Sun becomes a suspect for his murder. After being cleared of the murder charge, Sun takes Chun's editor, who still believes Sun to be the murderer, to Chun's home on Parang Island in order to find the cause of his death. Sun tracks Chun's past, talking to the rich widow who used to live with Chun, a friend of Chun's, and a female shaman. He hears the remaining truth about Chun from Min-ja, a barmaid who was Chun's first girlfriend, then has sexual relations with her. Meanwhile, the shaman pronounces that Chun was killed by the water demon of I-eoh Island and performs a ritual to wrest Chun's body back from the demon. As she predicted, Chun's body floats to shore. The shaman tells Min-ja that even though Chun is dead, the manly seeds inside him are still alive, and gives her the chance to conceive his baby. The movie returns to the present. On a hill by the seashore, Sun meets Min-ja, who has a little boy with her.

Notes

"Fierce insight into human fates and desires, a majestic declaration of clairvoyance that overcomes death-bound Thanatos with unflinching Eros, and a meticulous sensibility that interweaves the scientific and the occult" (Kim Jung-ryong)
I-eoh Island is the most important of Kim Ki-young's 1970s films. Although it is ostensibly based on Lee Cheong-jun's novel of the same title, the movie departs completely from the original and unfolds an "aesthetic of mysticism" distinctive to Kim himself. Uncanny, primal imagery evocative of a surrealist atmosphere delivers a powerful impact in this film. It has a mystery structure similar to that of Citizen Kane: Chun Nam-suk's death is presented first, then the possible cause behind it is gradually revealed through Sun Wu-hyun's investigation. Sun traces the outlines of the victim's life through the women who have loved him. What is interesting is the transition in Sun's position as interviewer. Unlike most mysteries, in which the detective figure maintains a certain distance from those he interviews and uncovers the truth using rational deduction, Sun deviates from his objective standpoint and becomes increasingly embroiled in the case. In the moment when Min-ja designates Sun as "Chun Nam-suk returned," the demarcation between detective and object of detection dissolves completely. In this way, binary opposites merge and intermingle in the film. Elements of the pre-modern realm, such as legends, demons, occult magic, and the primal life force, are simultaneously opposed to and combined with modern discourses like scientific knowledge, commercialization, and the destruction of the natural environment. As the movie progresses, the terms that constitute such binaries as modern/pre-modern, reason/unreason, and capitalism/primitivism become impossible to disentangle. In short, I-eoh Island is swirling with inner dynamism and tension that prohibits categorization into neat dichotomies (Kim So-young). This is why the movie appears so complicated and abstruse. As Ha Kil-jong pointed out, no one except Kim Ki-young could have made such a transcendent film based on so challenging a subject.

Director Bio: Kim Ki-young (1921-1998)

Through his horror movies, The housemaid (Hanyeo) and Chungnyeo (Chungnyeo), director Kim Ki-young created a unique visual world with materials that the limited visual language in films in the 60s dared not approach. After the Korean Independence, Kim Ki-young began making a name for himself through his involvement in the theatre class at Seoul National University. Just after the Korean War, he first began directing propaganda movies for the United States Information Service and made his commercial directorial debut through The Box of Death (Jugeom-ui sangja) (1955). He made realistic movies heavily influenced by the Italian Neo-realists such as The First Snow (Choseol) (1958) and A defiance of teenager (10dae-ui banhang) (1959). But in the 60s, he began making his trademark expressionistic and psychological films which reflected the misanthropic, and destructive desire that came from the modernization of Korean society through the use of surreal sets and lighting.
The first of such films was The housemaid (Hanyeo). Although his movies seem to lack rational and logical reason and though his works cannot be pinned down or easily classified, Kim Ki-young is one of the most significant directors in the history of Korean cinema. Kim Ki-young passed away in a fire in his residence at the age of 77 as he was working on his comeback work.