Thursday, September 20, 2012


Here's a classic example of the WTF? Where is this going?-type Korean film that nevertheless sucks you in. And once you figure out what's going on, it completely sucks you in. Not without it's problems, it's the kind of film where you only realize the problems later, as you're digesting this nearly three-hour mini-epic of corruption, redemption, Christian violence and revenge.

Moss (2010) is based on a remarkably cinematic online Korean manga by Yoon Tae-ho, parts of which you can see here. Flicking through it, you realize how faithfully the film follows the frames (although there are several major alterations). That's why so many comic books and graphic novels are adapted to film: Everything is storyboarded out. Makes things really easy for the filmmakers.

In broad strokes, the story is an allegory of how corruption co-opts religion. Of particular interest to me was the fact that it was set in a rural village far from Seoul -- dark doings are always so much darker in the lush greenery of the countryside. Anyway, an elderly, Christ-like man dies of mysterious circumstances, and subsequently his prodigal son shows up in the village to get to the bottom of things. And boy is there a lot to get to the bottom of! The backstory spans 25 years and includes generous portions of depravity, arson, rape, mass murder, police corruption and, of course, lots of stabbing. I don't mean that in a bad way …

As I mentioned, there are problems. The denouement goes on a bit, and some issues are never made quite clear (but I suppose you get that when adapting a ridiculously rich and complex story). And there are the implausible moments that work better in a manga than on film, like when the young protagonist is repeatedly brutally stabbed in the belly and manages to run around the woods, eluding and even dispatching his attacker, all with a hand holding in his guts. Yeah right! But then this is a Korean film, with all the visceral grip we've come to know and love.

I'd definitely recommend Moss to anyone interested in Korean cinema. There are some really brutal scenes at the outset, but don't let that turn you off. By the time the final credits roll, you'll feel like you've been through something. Something major. That's what I love about Korean films of this genre: They put you through the fucking ringer. Total catharsis! Film can't do much more than that.

My thanks to Dr. Stan Glick for turning me on to this film.


Dr. Stan Glick said...

You're most welcome, my main man. I would've liked some more back story about RYU Hae-guk. What was the deal between his mother and father? Just what was it that brought about his conflict with public prosecutor PARK? Would have been nice if such things were broached, but hell, the film's over two and a half hours long as is.

Patrick Galloway said...

Yeah, they kinda drop you in it in medias res (as they say ... ). But you get the general vibe and before long you're too engrossed to quibble. Thanks again!