Reviews for The Isle ( ) 720p

IMDB: 7 / 10

Masterful film-making

I'm fast becoming a fan of Korean director Kim Ki-duk; this is the second film of his I've watched after SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN, WINTER...AND SPRING. The two films have much in common in terms of style and setting, but THE ISLE is something else entirely. While SPRING was a heartwarming story that championed the Buddhist lifestyle, THE ISLE is an extraordinarily dark tale of obsession and broken psychology.

One again, Kim Ki-duk has crafted an expertly visual film; THE ISLE looks fantastic and the setting of those floating holiday lettings is an exceptional one. The characters are painted in broad strokes but this makes them thoroughly interesting and it goes without saying that the subdued acting is fantastic. This is a slow burner of a film, yes, but a thoroughly satisfying one all the same, in which the atmosphere is interspersed with some eye-popping set-pieces; if this doesn't put you off fishing then I don't know what will.

Although the infliction of pain is upsetting in the extreme, there are always good reasons for what occurs here, making this as far from "torture porn" as you'll get. The only issue I have with it really is the real-life animal cruelty, something I'm dead set against, but the UK DVD thankfully excises much of this material. In any case, I can't wait to check out more from the director.

What was Kim thinking?

Is this the same Kim Ki Duk who directed the poignant, life-spanning testimonial of "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring"? The same Kim Ki Duk who directed the exquisite, nearly silent, heartbreaking longing of "3 Iron"? The same Kim Ki Duk who dazzled us with the staggering tragedy of "The Coast Guard" and made us squirm about the ugliness of nonchalant teenage prostitution before returning to his almost patented nature motif to allow us all (characters and viewers alike) to experience redemption in "Samaritan Girl"? I just cannot seem to find him in this film.

Oh, sure, Kim's nature motif is still present. The film takes place entirely on a lake surrounded by mountains and on fishing floats resting placidly on the surface of calm waters. Yes, it's Kim Ki Duk, all right. Kim even describes the film as "beautiful" in an interview included in the DVD's special features. But I'm not sure anymore what that means after viewing this putrescent presentation.

What is beautiful about angry, potty-mouthed prostitutes, lustful, violent and potty-mouthed fishermen, a covetous mute merchant, explicit animal torture, sequences of self-mutilation and a pace that swings nauseatingly between bestial carnality and mindless brutality? These are the only elements of humanity that present themselves in this utterly confounding and ultimately pointless film. If it is based on a fable or intended as a parable or is meant to be symbolic of something greater, this reviewer is unfamiliar with the source material. It has been favorably compared to "Audition" by Japanese director Takashi Miike (much to Kim's satisfaction), but aside from some astonishingly good performances, especially given what they had to work with, by lead actors Seo Jung and Kim Yoo Suk, I find little reason to recommend this film. I have not seen "Audition," but I doubt it would alter in any way my view of "The Isle." Its violence is pornographic and senselessly sadistic. Its sex is not pornographic, but passionless and masochistic. Characters behave on irritating impulse because there is no plot. Its point is either non-existent or, I will admit, lost amidst Korean cultural quirks that I fail to understand.

The only beauty is in the cinematography, which is classic Kim: fog-shrouded boats lapping slowly across a serene lake, mountainous terrain dominating the background, and an imaginative and playful use of color. At times it seems as if viewers are locked in a big Kim Ki Duk romper room. Some touches, like the mysterious and seductive mute merchant played by Jung and the pleasantly odd use of motorbikes, are intriguing. But as a film, this effort is downright confusing and, in the end, offensive to the senses, not necessarily to sensibilities. One hopes that Kim will leave this kind of film-making in the trash heap of his past, for we know he is capable of so much more.

Beautiful, Striking, Unexpected

I have not seen many remarkable motion pictures in the last few years. I may not be exposed to enough new and original creations, since Panama is not the best city to go to the cinema, monopolized by American mainstream productions. Through a fan of Asian cinema, I have lately watched a few films from Japan, China and South Korea that have really impressed me. On top of the list I place South Korean Ki-duk Kim's beautiful tale "Seom", a metaphor of an erotic obsession and gender submission, which in a way reminded me of Nagisa Oshima's "A? no corrida". But while Oshima opted for a naturalistic representation of sex to narrate a true story, Kim's parable is frequently approached from a distance, with his characters' physicality and motivations subtly emerging from their actions and their placing in the beautiful fishing resort where all the story takes place. When Kim does get closer... well, you better be on guard, although the sadistic elements of the story make it more fascinating. "The Isle"'s last images are among the most striking (and unexpected) I've seen in decades. Highly recommended.

Sh!t floats

In the whole 90 minutes of this film, almost nothing happens. There's about 10 lines of dialogue. It's not even set on an island!

Some lake has these little floating huts that people inexplicably live in and fish on. A mute girl who sells bait arranges hookers to visit these weird, floating fisherman when she can't be bothered spreading her own legs. Every night she swims around in the darkness and sometimes spies on them through the toilet. What?

One guy in particular really fancies her. But he's on the lam from the law because of some crime that is hinted at in a dream but never defined. One day the cops turn up and ask questions so he decides now is the best time to swallow a bunch of fishing hooks. What?

The mute girl kills a hooker. She chucks her body and scooter out into the middle of the lake. The cops turn up and start asking questions so she attaches fishing hooks to her vagina with the rod in a boat that is sailing away. Obviously when the line tightens somethings gonna give...

I am assuming this film is mostly metaphor. But it's a pretentious bore of a metaphor that is painful to sit through. And what's the deal with showing so many people crimping a length off? Do I need to see that? Don't waste your time with this film.

One Of The Worst Movie EVER!

This movie didn't make sense... All you see is fishermen having sex with this prostitute, and taking dumps in the water... Sometimes they slap her... And most disturbing is that they beat up a dog, and throw a living bird in a cage in the water... Don't waste time with this! Really... And the actors are super bad! I see a lot of Asian movies, and the most of them are really cool, but this one is s...! There's a scene where a guy swallows a hook, and bleeds out of his mouth, then the hooker comes to the house and see him lying there. Then she throws him the water, and his there for a couple of minutes, then she pulls him up with a fish line, and saves him... even though people normally would be dead by that. Stay away from this one!


Movie just never really went no where. Could have summoned the whole thing up in about 10 minutes and it still would have been to long. Before anyone starts with the standard "Hollywood" BS - there are many foreign films I love. Just happens that I don't get what the hype over this one is. Just thought it was junk as far as movies go. Boring as all hell (and yes, there are some slow moving movies I do like - they just better eventually go somewhere). As far as foreign movies go I thought City of God, Memories of Murder, Bittersweet Life, and Save the Green Planet where all great films. I keep hearing the Isle listed in the same class as these movies and I just don't even think it is close to any of these. I don't know - guess we all have different taste.

Waste of time...

This movie sucked so bad. The cruelty and slow pace just didn't do it for me. I couldn't sympathize with any of the characters. I couldn't sympathize with any of te persons in "Ichi the killer", but that movie had other redeeming qualities... such as cartoony gore and no animal cruelty... Why did they have to beat a dog to make this sorry excuse for a movie??? The movie makes no sense at all! Just look at the message board: Nobody gets the ending, but everyone thinks it's great. Do yourself a favor and avoid this stinker! There are a lot of good (even great) Asian movies out there... This isn't one of them! This movie sucked so bad. The cruelty and slow pace just didn't do it for me. I couldn't sympathize with any of the characters. I couldn't sympathize with any of te persons in "Ichi the killer", but that movie had other redeeming qualities... such as cartoony gore and no animal cruelty... Why did they have to beat a dog to make this sorry excuse for a movie??? The movie makes no sense at all! Just look at the message board: Nobody gets the ending, but everyone thinks it's great. Do yourself a favor and avoid this stinker! There are a lot of good (even great) Asian movies out there... This isn't one of them!

So many levels

Now this is a great example of horror. Not your slasher, undead walking, predictable spoon fed story. Instead, the Isle's simple setting proves that looks can be deceiving as calm waters and clear blue skies belie the murky depths and secrets hidden within.

I never realized the symbolism in this movie: fishing, bait, the simple action of simply tossing back an unwanted catch back in the water. Scenes most striking and prominent contained little or even no dialogue. The soundtrack is subtle, yet highly effective in establishing mood. Then again, anyone who has gone fishing can appreciate the tranquil, and peaceful state which can be very rewarding. How about human relationships? How about the bad times or deep hurts so traumatizing which cannot be shared with anyone. Do we walk burdened carrying deep pains like say a wounded scaled fish? Although it may be wounded, it still goes on swimming in its daily routine. Our two main characters throughout the film really catch you offguard. Let's just say "misery loves company". This horror is more psychological and more tangible than what you would usually see on screen.

I was impressed by Jung Suh who really displays the strength of Hee-Jin, and at the same time shows a frail, tragic side. Her routine actions like steering the boat, tending to the renters' are done so convincingly that you feel like you're at the lake watching true events unfold. Credit also Ki-Duk Kim for directing this without making it into a sappy love story and not going overboard or too artsy. Be warned: the Isle is laced with dark humor and will have you thinking about it after it is done. I really appreciate films that are able to do that.

The Great one..

This movie is very impressive, full of emotions and beauty.. While rude and very violent, still very magical and nice.. I hope that everyone will enjoy this movie as much as I did, because it truly is a remarkable piece..

Deeply moving and emotional film.

Ki-duk Kim's "Seom"/"The Isle" has to be one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen.The cinematography,the silence and the themes under the surface are incredible.The film explores human relationships and the pain of being in love,and being loved.Both characters(Hyun-shik and Hin-jin)are lost human beings searching for love.They crave love,yet shun it when it comes to them,as they are deeply aware of the destructive qualities it brings out in them.Suh-Shik Hwang's cinematography is absolutely beautiful and captures many impressive visuals.Still there are some horrific images that will shock casual viewer,so the viewer should be prepared.9 out of 10.

For Asian film fans only.

"The Isle", a hauntingly beautiful film out of Korea, tells of a mysterious young woman who operates a flotilla of fishing huts on a lake from her rustic cabin providing transportation, delivery services, maintenance, and even sex for the men who rent the huts for R&R. As the story unfolds, so does a peculiar attraction between the non-speaking woman (Jung) and a suicidal patron (Kim) who watch each other from across the misty waters. "The Isle" delves in the yin-yang Asian aesthetic in which pain and pleasure yield the most satisfying life experience and, though much has been written about that controversial and grotesque aspect, it seems quite fitting in the context of the film and there is surprisingly little sex, nudity, or sensationalism. A minimalist film with almost no script, "The Isle" is an exotic art house experience which will play best with serious foreign film fans. All others should stay away. (B+)

Very painful view of relationships

This is definitely not a film for all tastes. "The Isle" not only shows some of the most disturbing images on film but it also makes the viewer work hard to try and figure out what it all means. Especially the very last scene which I think was put there for each viewer to make they're own interpretation, as Kubrick did for the end of "2001, A Space Odyssey". Suh Jung plays Hee-Jin who rents out floating fish cabins and supplies bait, food and prostitutes. She also is a prostitute and she never utters a single word in the film. Some have called her character a mute but towards the end of the film she screams so I am thinking her silence might be of her own doing! She is attracted to one of the renters who is suicidal and is hiding out. Suh Jungs performance is very strong and its difficult to carry a film without speaking a word and the actor has to rely to a great length on how well and interesting the story is. Her performance reminds me of Isabelle Huppert in "The Piano Teacher". The amount of pain between the two characters is what they have in common. This is a film about relationships in a very strange setting with two strange people. Each character has a scene involving fish hooks and when they take place its up to the other character to try and ease the pain. Good cinematography with shots of the lake at dawn or sunset with mist and fog on the water. Very tough film to view with all the self mutilation and animal cruelty. For those of you who have viewed Asian films before then you should check out this very well made film.

Fishermen's worst beautiful nightmare - and everyone else's, too

Seom aka The Isle is written and directed by Korean film maker Ki-duk Kim. This bizarre film tells about happenings in strange fishing resort in which fishermen live and fish in floating cabins at daytime, and have fun and sex with local prostitutes at night time. The film's protagonist is an attractive, but very mysterious female (Suh Jung) who never talks, and works as some kind of "boat girl" who gets the food and prostitutes for the fishermen and other similar activities with her little boat. There is minimal amount of dialogue in The Isle, and it is hard to describe this ultra bizarre film after just one viewing.

The visuals are very astonishing and stunning as the settings are so atmospheric and natural. The calm mist and smoke above the water is very moody and even surreal, and this all is intensified even further by great use of camera, occasionally very weird angles and total feel of peace and magic. Blue is the main color in the film, and it is equally brilliant-looking as in many Hong Kong thrillers like Dr. Lamb by Danny Lee and Red to Kill by Billy Tang. The colors are always fantastic in Asian films, and The Isle once again proves and shows this. This film is a delight to the least before the infamous scenes involving fishing hooks.

The director has said that he wanted to depict relationships between men and women with this film, and that the film tells something about how dependent were are on each other, and especially on another sex. Once the first horrific "hook scene" comes, the only cure for his pain is the main female, who by giving him carnal pleasure, takes away or diminishes his pain - and vice versa later in the film. I think that this film is more feminist since the very surreal closing scene is so underlining as the man finally finds the "truth" and source of all life. Another reviewer thought that the end scene is gratuitous and only there to confuse things even further, and that may be the case, but still I want to interpret it as above, and it is very personal scene in depicting that eternal truth. Seeing is believing...

I think there's lot more than just this in the core of The Isle. The film really tells something about the relationship between humans and nature and nature's sources. There are many scenes depicting man exploiting nature and its inhabitants, and I think that the forthcoming scenes of mutilation are also symbolic as things turn upside down: humans become the victims of what they have practised and see the results. At this point, it is necessary to stress that there are many scenes of actual killing and off putting abuse of animals (mainly fish) which I, also, think are gratuitous since the message of the film is pretty hard to take since the film does the same exploitations it depicts committed by its characters. Then again, the killings show the real face of our world, since in order to stay alive, we have to use nature's resources and there's nothing wrong in that. So what's wrong in my opinion is that the animals in The Isle are not killed without pain and suffering, and that is not right nor human since I think that no living creature should die painfully or tortured. I wanted to think that the animals were not mutilated and killed in the film for real, but it all looks sadly too real. Still, I have to find the film's merits even though it becomes far more difficult when I remember these "animal snuff" scenes, that are unnecessarily explicit, albeit meant to be symbolic, which they of course are, if one can still accept this after the horrific imagery.

This film reminded me pretty much of Japanese film Naked Blood, which also is very beautiful and surreal film, but soon the horrific scenes of self mutilation and ultra splatter are on screen before the viewer's eyes. The self mutilations committed by fish hooks in The Isle are very gruelling to say the least, so this film will make the weakest viewers faint, as many festival screenings have proven. They are so sickeningly effective I wanted to stop thinking about what it would feel like to actually do something like that. Fish hooks are very small, but like Stuart Gordon has said (about the finger biting moment in Re-Animator), the smallest things may be the most horrific in many cases. These fish hooks really are symbolic as the humans are "turned to fishes" and get to see what they've done and created.

The Isle is very weird, bizarre, calm and also disturbing piece of cinema, and only minority of cinema lovers will stomach and appreciate films like The Isle. As I stressed earlier, I am sorry about the fact of animal mutilation presented in the film, and without those scenes, I would probably give more stars in the rating. Now it gets little less even if I wanted to give it more as a piece of art. 8/10 and to understand more about this film, it has to be seen many times since it unfolds pretty slowly.

Challenges the audience to work for their reward, but pays off if you make it

Another movie that has attained a little notoriety from the number of walk-outs at festival screenings, and even a couple of audience members passing out. Whilst it is not hard to see why, it is a shame that is what the film is known for, as there is much more to it than *those* scenes. A mute girl makes a living running a kind of retreat, where men can rent a floating cabin on a lake in the mountains and spend their days fishing, and their nights sleeping with prostitutes. The mute girl makes ends meet by taking on this role as well. A young man arrives and rents a cabin, clearly not their for the fish. We see that he is tortured and suicidal - you wouldn't guess why from the 5 second flashback that is meant to explain it, but the 'filmography' section of the DVD explains it in more detail. The mute girl is drawn to the man's desperation, perhaps feeling sympathy/protectiveness, or perhaps simply relating to another deeply unhappy soul.

The relationship between these two characters, and several other characters that come to the lake for one reason or another, is the main focus of the film. The difficulty some people have with relationships is the topic being studied, particularly when they are not happy in their relationship with themselves. The inner feelings of the characters receive expression in scenes whose 'shock factor' has drawn inevitable comparisons with Takashi Miike, especially AUDITION. Director Kim Ki Duk doesn't seem to mind these comparisons:

"KK: I saw Audition at Toronto and that movie made me realize that there is someone else out there like me. We are two of a kind"

If you couldn't sit through the last half hour of AUDITION, you'll probably want to give THE ISLE a miss too. It's also definitely not a film for animal lovers... there is absolutely zero chance of the film being released intact in the UK or the US, as the treatment of the animals in the film (mainly fish) is far outside what is permissible in either country's regulations.

But there is much more to THE ISLE than the scenes that make keeping your eyes on screen a challenge. In between, the film is absolutely ravishing, and will keep your eyes glued there. The setting of the lake, mostly bathed in deep fog, and the fantastic wordless performance from actress Jung Suh (and the rest of the cast) are beautiful and powerful. The loneliness and sadness of the characters is reflected brilliantly in the total isolation of the floating cabins. There is a deep message in the film, and it is presented to us beautifully.

Like Miike, Kim Ki-Duk makes us work for our reward when we watch THE ISLE... if you want to take away the beauty of his film, you have to be willing to pay the price of the horror. Thoroughly recommended!

One note: the film is another one of those great films that just doesn't know how to end itself. Actually, we get the perfect ending... a nice long shot and a fade to white and it should have been over, but

apparently Kim Ki Duk wasn't quite satisfied to leave it at that and tacks on two extra scenes, about a minute of footage, that are simply inexplicable and serve only to confuse and spoil the mood. My recommendation... when it fades to white, simply stop the DVD

The most painful cinematic experience

"the Isle" is a trap. a real one. Almost speechless, this Korean movie is a slow-paced lynchean nightmare that grabs you since the beginning to haunt you for days after the viewing. Never have I seen a location so wonderfully used: this "isle" is in fact a lake covered with small floating houses rent to fishermen. A young savage girl seems to be the owner of the place. She provides fishermen with worms, hooks and from times to times... sex. The coming of a suicidal young fisherman will drive her in a whirlpool of deadly passion. Not to put before everyone's eyes... I warned you! The whole theatre was stretching and bending with pain on their seats! And...well...animals' lovers, keep away too...

No intellectual value, just exploitation

Well, first of all I want to point out, that I don't have any problem with portraits of graphic violence in movies whatsoever, as far as it's somehow justified by the plot, delivers at least some sort of irony or -which is far better - serves a reasonable purpose. A good example for the latter is Pasolini's "Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma", one of the most disturbing and violent films ever made. But it all makes sense in this case, since Pasolini created an intellectual statement against fascism (etc.) that intentionally generates here and there a certain impact on the viewer. The sometimes extreme and almost unwatchable sequences suit the equally extreme subject and are therefore justified

It's all completely different with "Seom", which fails in adding any intellectual value to the gross images. The movie is either tedious or disgusting, with some rare sequences of good acting and a generally well-done photography. The story: A young woman lives nearby a lake and manages some raft-like constructions with little cabins on them, mainly used by anglers. She provides food and other stuff and offers love services from time to time. Suddenly the male lead arrives, fatally attracts her and things go their way, fish-hooks within people and plenty scenes of real animals being tortured or killed included.

The movie is completely image-driven and tries to come across as arty-farty and philosophical, but it didn't work for me.

Rating: 3/10

Not for the Squeamish but, Damn! If it wasn't the Best Film I've seen All Year! ambiguous, bizarre, gory, horrifying, allegorical and metaphysically resonant; See it the first chance you get!

Thanks to the guy at the Cinemateque who recommended this film at the Donald Cammell retrospective; I'm so glad I saw it, it was beyond anything I ever expected. I've been disappointed so many times at so many so-called 'exceptional' films that I barely got my rear-end to the screening. After an excruciating wait of a few minutes through an idiotic trailer, I was riveted to the screen: blew me away from first shot to the last! This isn't a mere 'horror' film, it's an almost mythical psychological investigation into the dark side of things and 'amorality,' which is what is ignored or repressed in everyday life, and quite frankly, needs to be dealt with in an 'elegant' if fashion. That's the essence of most things artistically valuable, that 'elegant,' implied, indirect way of showing people how to 'sin correctly,' how to deal with the 'amoral' without being engulfed by it. That's what "The Isle" achieves, and that's extremely rare!

First of all, the location that the film was shot in, is simultaneously mysterious, beautiful, and absurd. A beautiful misty lake with little brightly colored boat-houses on it, barely big enough to sleep in, where people go to fish. The cinematography is flawless, the entire film full of beautiful shots that never seem forced or done just to show off. The music is never intrusive and when used never forces an interpretation on the viewer. The beautiful lead actress (Suh Jung) playing the mute girl who lives at the resort and occasionally prostitutes herself for money is beyond charismatic, a 'natural feminist' caught in 'man's world' situations beyond her control, a tough, hardened wild child yet thoroughly feminine. She falls in love with a crazy, suicidal, mysterious guy in one of the boat houses, who seems to have a heart of gold. Many crazy and some very graphic and disgusting scenes later (a few of them involving drowning people on fish-hooks quite absurd, though strangely enough the cumulative force of the images is such that it matters very little) I was flabbergasted to learn that the film was shorter than 90 minutes! It seemed I had spent an eternity knowing this locale and hanging out with the characters! All I can say is I think this film is a masterpiece and I'm giving it The HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! Ki-Duk Kim is a director to watch, and to judge by this film Edward Yang and Wong Kar-Wai don't a have thing on him; in fact, what he's done here in the 'horror' genre is arguably a rarer feat. See "The Isle" the first chance you get, it is THE Korean film to see; you will be truly shocked, touched on a deep level, and intellectually stimulated at the same time.


I'll say this much--This director is all about RAW images...things most of us are not ready to confront head-on. Images of sex, suicide, murder, and people "relieving themselves" are constantly bombarding the viewer, which makes me wonder if the director was trying to communicate the concept of relief or release. Although I don't think that I could ever see this movie again, I will say that the director does have a good eye. There were some really nice shots and "picture moments" in the film (the fans, the wire fish in their hair), but the story left me needing more (strictly in the since that we were left asking ourselves "what the heck did we just see?").

Note: If you have a tendency to gag or vomit easily...don't see this film.