On December 11, 2020 local time, the well-known South Korean director Kim Ki-duk passed away in Latvia from complications of new coronary pneumonia at the age of 59. In this way, with a lifetime of controversy, Kim Kidd left in an incredible way.
For fans of other countries, Kim Kidd is a film director with stunning talents. For Korean audiences, he is always surrounded by endless controversy and complicated emotions. On the one hand, he is undoubtedly the master representative of contemporary Korean films in the international film scene. He is the first Korean director to win the highest awards in the three major film festivals and the only Korean director to win the awards in the three major film festivals.
On the other hand, many of Kim’s works are incompatible with the mainstream Korean film market, and they have always stimulated the nerves of Korean society with a strong and deviant style.
Li Cangdong, the director of his peers, once commented: “Director Kim Kidd used the most straightforward way to make movies, and made his movies known to the world. He made the stories he wanted to tell in his own way, and didn’t care about the fancy way of expression at all. Because of being so vigorous and powerful, his films will give the audience strength.”
“Vigorous and powerful” Kim’s movies are the most brutal and vital aspect of Korean movies: a half-way renunciation, an unknown person, created a brand-new theme for Korean movies.
“Famous European Director”
Kim Kidd is an odd number in the Korean film scene. Looking back at his life history, from a poor boy to a big director, Kim Ki-dek was born completely in the wild.
He was born in poverty and was always suppressed by his father who was full of grievances about life. Due to family circumstances, he dropped out of school early to live in a factory first, and then chose to join the Marine Corps. But what I didn’t expect is that the “refuge” far from my father is also full of repression and violence.
After retiring from the army, Kim Kidd did various jobs, and finally chose to go to Paris, France to study fine art and make a living by selling paintings. The study of art concepts has a profound influence on the image style of his future movies. Three years later, Kim Ki-duk returned to South Korea temporarily after his life in Europe. He saw a call for scripts during the intermittent period and started script writing.
Poverty and desperate, he persisted for two years with a competitive spirit, and finally gained some fame with the script “Illegal Crossing”, and thus entered Zhongwu Road.
From his debut novel “Diary of a Hidden Crocodile”, Kim Kidd’s film career has been accompanied by doubts in the Korean film industry. “The Diary of the Crocodile Hidden Corpse” tells the story of a few marginal people under the Han River Bridge in Seoul. What is slowly unfolding is the core concept of Kim Ki-duk in the future: the exploration and questioning of people.
Immediately after its release, the film was severely criticized by the South Korean film industry: “half amateur film” and “rape film”. But some critics also praised: “Although immature but worthy of attention, it is a work beyond mediocrity in all aspects.” Although the production of the film is rough, but Kim Ki-duk already has a strong creative style, which is unique among contemporary Korean films.
Afterwards, Kim Kidd filmed the mediocre “Wildlife Sanctuary” without any waves. This caused a huge blow to him, and he fell into the distress of giving up the movie until the filming of “Young Prostitutes”.
In 1998, “Young Prostitute” was selected as the opening film of one of the three major international film festivals, Berlin Film Festival “Panorama Unit”, and also attracted more than 20 film festivals around the world. This gave Kim Kidd unprecedented courage. It is also from the beginning of “Young Prostitutes” that people have never stopped judging Kim Kidd’s works, and they are almost dominated by negative opinions. But this does not prevent Kim Ki-deok from becoming an unforgettable Korean face among contemporary film masters.
Since then, Kim Kidd has brought a series of films that made movie fans jaw-dropping with his extremely diligent creative frequency, and has become the absolute darling of European film festivals. He entered the main competition in Venice with “Drifting Desire Room”, “Recipient Unknown”, “Empty Room” and “Holy Death”, entered the main competition in Berlin with “Bad Boy” and “Samaria Girl”, and was shortlisted with “Breathe” Cannes main competition.
In 2004, “Empty Room” and “The Samaritan Girl” won the Best Director Award in Berlin and Venice in the same year. Together with key directors such as Park Chan-wook, director of the “Vengeance Trilogy” and Lee Cangdong, director of the “Green Trilogy”, he led Korean films to create a wave among Western fans.
Kim Ki-duk, who is not recognized by the mainstream Korean market but has international honors, has become a “famous European director” in the eyes of his compatriots. He constantly photographs the dark desires in human nature, constantly reflects on sin and salvation, and points the shots to the marginalized figures again and again. Kim Ki-duk’s bold, radical and avant-garde film creation style has played a pivotal role in promoting the influence of Korean films in the world.
“Young Prostitute” “Drifting Desire Room” stills
“Young Prostitute” “Drifting Desire Room” stills
“Semi-abstract movie” hits the Korean film scene
The works of Hong Sang-soo, Kim Ki-de-k, Lee Cang-dong and others all have distinctive author styles. King’s movies are full of all kinds of suggestive metaphors, such as islands, boats, currents, animals, women, etc. Among them, women are often the core that promotes the development of the plot of his works and the occurrence of contradictions in the story. Many characters are silent all the time, without even a single line. Each story is accompanied by pain, loneliness and hopelessness.
Kim Ki-duk has been influenced by director Kim Ki-young’s “Lady” and other films. The creepy “Second Girl” has a strong aesthetic style of horror, using pictures and sound effects to create an extreme sense of horror. Jin Qiyong has specially studied Freud’s psychoanalysis theory to better mobilize the uneasy emotions in the hearts of the audience.
There are also strong elements of psychoanalytic theory in Jin Jide’s works. Through carefully designed scene scheduling, layout and plot structure, he constantly presents elements with self-masochistic tendency, which makes people feel uncomfortable.
Take “The Drifting Desire Room” which took him to the international stage as an example. The scene of inserting the fishing hook into the uterus and putting it in the mouth is unforgettable, and the deep pain of the wounds all over the body makes the audience chill. Countless critics have analyzed the metaphors behind the elements of the film, and there have also been countless voices criticizing the film’s brutal portrayal of women.
“I admit that Kim Kidd’s movies are sentimental, beautiful, and vicious, but they do not despise women. I have always believed that the focus of my movies is not from the inherent thinking of male and female gender, but only from people and people. It starts from the relationship between people.” Kim Kidd once explained.
He hopes that the audience can regard “Drifting Desire Room” as a movie full of “loneliness and beauty”. However, there is always a gap between Kim Kidd and his fans: his film stories are developed on the level of metaphors, symbols and allegories, but fans often restore and understand from realism.
In Kim Ki-duk’s view, most Korean movies lack new ideas. The local filmmakers are satisfied with the century-old experience in the Western film industry and stand still. What he longs for is a brand-new creative method to present the movie, hoping to “reproduce a different and unusual psychology with a painting-like expression and image in the reality of people’s life”.
Kim Kidd has experience in painting and immersed in art thinking. It can be said that his films began with painting. Kim Kidd draws on the “semi-abstract” painting theory, adds artistic and psychological expressions to the film, and slowly approaches the audience through unrealistic spaces and images. For example, the summer snow in “Young Prostitutes” is situational and semi-abstract, wandering between reality and fiction.
Stills from “Empty Room”, “Samaria Girl”, “Breathing”, and “Holy Death”
According to Kim Kidd’s own philosophy, what he created was the so-called “semi-abstract film.” The creative concept of having a strong image of painting and color is unfamiliar to Korean movies, and it also poses a challenge to the traditional Korean movie concept.
Women are often the core that promotes the development of the plot of his works and the occurrence of contradictions in the story.
Who will inherit the independent art style?
Sex, violence, and death are the elements that shock the audience the most in Kim Kidd’s works. His more than 20 works have unique violent aesthetics, surreal imagination and poetic tragic beauty.
These qualities have deeply influenced the late directors who Kim Kidd himself fostered. He guided Zhang Xun, Jeon Jaehong, Zhang Zhezhu, Zhao Changho and others in the traditional model of a master leading apprentice.
In 2010, Zhang Zhezhu’s feature film debut “The Beginning and End of the Kim Funam Murder” astounded the film world. The film cruelly tells the story of a simple female Jin Funan walking towards revenge under tremendous pressure, full of horror and horror.
The film first appeared at the Cannes Film Festival and then won an award at the Bucheon International Fantasy Film Festival. Coincidentally, it was on the same international path as the teacher Kim Kidd.
The tragedy of Jin Funan’s murder took place on an isolated island, and finally ended the lives of all the people on the island with a sickle. The closed island, the oppressed and enslaved women, and the cruel way of revenge all have a strong taste of Jin Ji De. Zhang Zhezhu also said that it was when he participated in the filming of “Coastline” directed by Kim Kidd in 2002 that he was quite touched by the isolated island and produced his creative idea of revenge for the isolated island.
Zhang Zhezhu is known as the disciple closest to the style of Kim Kidd, but since then he has devoted himself to mainstream commercial films. In 2013, his action film “Secret and Great” broke 11 box office records in Korean film history, showing the mature ability to control the film, but it lost its distinctive artistic characteristics.
Another disciple, Zhang Xun, soon became one of the top Korean directors. Zhang Xun once served as the associate director of Kim Kidd’s movie “Time”. His debut film “Movies are Movies” in 2008 is exactly the script written by Kim Kidd.
Kim Kidd has experience in painting and immersed in art thinking. It can be said that his films began with painting.
Zhang Xun once said that he respected and loved director Kim Ki-de very much and regarded him as his mentor. Later, he directed “The Righteous Brothers” and “The Battle of the Highlands” performed well in word of mouth and box office.
Several disciples had impressive works when they first came out of the cottage. However, over the years, some people have been silent, and some have moved to the commercial market to shoot films that are “lack of novelty” that their mentors disdain. In the end, Kim Kidd was still the only one.
Kim Ki-duk once said before his death: “Even if I die now, I will immediately get people’s re-judgment. Even those who hate me and deny me, I know, they will scramble to change their attitudes and reinterpret my movies.” After his death, the Korean film industry fell into silence collectively, and there were few public comments. Among Korean audiences, there is no lack of applause such as “Die good”.
This is naturally understandable. Kim Kidd was once sued by “Mobius” actress A on the grounds of “onset violence”; three South Korean actresses jointly accused Kim Kim of sexual harassment and violence on the MBC TV program.
Burdened with moral controversy, he had to abandon the Korean market and began to seek overseas development. During this trip to Latvia, Jinjid had planned to buy a house there and apply for permanent residency, but unexpectedly died in a foreign land before Jiazi’s birthday.
Kim Kidd’s works will never disappear silently in the history of film, but how he will be re-evaluated by future generations, I am afraid it is not as he hoped.