Young, silent Tae-suk (Jae Hee) enters strange homes while the occupants are away, gently insinuating himself into their empty spaces, tidying up, mending things, never disrespectful. In one home, where he uses the practice golf kit in the tiny backyard, he is discovered by the locked up and beaten up wife, Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon). But instead of raising the alarm, the ex-model leaves her abusive husband (Kwon Hyuk-ho) and joins Tae-suk in his curious form of home visits and fall in love. But when they find an old man dead inside his home and carefully bury him, their surreal lifestyle begins to come apart as Tae-suk is accused of his murder - and her kidnap. He's thrown in jail, and she's sent back to her violent, angry husband. But both dream of being together again.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What happens is less important than how it's happening, a film of subtle moments, with feelings and thoughts conveyed almost wordlessly, 3-Iron is both artificial and profound. The artificial nature of the story sits astride the profundity of the intent. It's as if the filmmaker begins with a surface reality as Tae-suk (Jae Hee) moves through the real world in a ghost-like manner, meeting Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) and eloping with her.
But when they discover a dead body, the story seems to slip into its own ghost-like world as Tae-suk is taken to prison and Sun-hwa is taken back to the prison of her own house. Here, they both dream of a freedom that's made up of nothing more than their love.
It's a hopelessly romanticised story, made oblique and other-wordly by the near total absence of dialogue between the two central characters. In fact, the only thing Sun-hwa says is "I love you". The resulting performances rely on the director's good judgement, and despite some clunky aspects to the film, the overall effect is engaging, if somewhat muted and offbeat - or mysterious, if you prefer.
The 3-Iron of the title refers to the golf club which features in a couple of key scenes as a weapon - although not as you might expect. And the closing shot reveals Kim ki-duk's romanticised fantasy in a simple but effective visual that has been carefully prepared for us through the film.
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(S. Korea, 2004)
CAST: Lee Seung-yeon, Jae Hee, Kwon Hyuk-ho, Joo Jin-mo
PRODUCER: Kim Ki-Duk
DIRECTOR: Kim Ki-Duk
SCRIPT: Kim Ki-Duk
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jang Seung-beck
EDITOR: Kim Ki-Duk
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chungsol Art
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 10, 2006