It’s difficult to write a review of Kim Ki-duk’s disturbing thriller Moebius without giving away the terrible thing that happens within the film’s family trio right at the onset, subsequently kicking the rest of the film into action. This single act of depravity sets into motion a wide variety of terrible things, some of which might be too intense for your average moviegoer to take. Initially banned in the director’s home country of South Korea, this is the type of film that gets stuck in your head for days afterwards.
Those who do take the trip will be rewarded by Kim’s dedication to tight scenes and visually powerful drama, especially in how he quietly builds up to the big pay-offs that confound or horrify the audience. The dark eroticism of Moebius is undoubtedly its defining characteristic, a film that gives and takes away from its characters for better or for worse. They are but loose lonely creatures, some more vulnerable than others, some merely masking their dementia by playing coy.
It’s hard to tell at times throughout the film as Kim shot his picture without a single line of dialogue. That’s over 90 minutes of non-speaking time, for those keeping count. Regardless, his stellar cast does a great job of moving the story forward without lagging on non-essential elements. His film is cut and dry, unlike his characters, whose motivations range from ordinary to psychotic.
What exactly awaits our high school-aged protagonist, played by Seo Young-joo, is hard to predict at first. He’s for the most part ordinary until he falls victim to his malicious mother (Lee Eun-woo), who strikes out against her son in revenge for his father’s (Jo Jae-hyun) infidelity. It’s at that point that the film dramatically veers into strange and uncomfortable territory as the mother is cast out and the father wrestles with suicidal thoughts and how exactly he will help his son going forward.
The promise of a cure is seen through the father’s desperate online searches, which inevitably bear fruit. But whether or not his son is too far gone becomes the film’s central question. The boy, after all, has developed unnerving outlets in which to obtain relief, which play out on the screen repeatedly with gross close-ups and all.
Moebius is a strange and violent exploration of loss and of coping. Kim as a filmmaker has achieved a shocking film that touches upon almost every taboo imaginable and does so with elegance and a unshakable sense of control, making him an Asian horror auteur to watch for.