Homeless in 3-Iron

A male protagonist who did not speak a single word but gave me the chills. A movie which was not a horror story but felt ghostly.

I watched 3-Iron (2004) with my mouth open, transfixed but not enthralled. In some scenes my hair stood on end. Events on the screen, each more surreal than the one before it… Was I dreaming them? Things are upside down or turned around… You feel a sense of violation and intrusion, and yet you can’t stop watching. 3-Iron reminds me thus of Oasis. Fascination and revulsion in equal measure.

Take the intrusion aspects, for example. From a shabby tenement to a grand mansion, it’s interesting the types of houses that Tae-suk (Jae-hee) breaks into. In one apartment you can’t even tell you’re in Korea, it looks so American. Of all the houses, the one that gives him and Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) the most emotional comfort is a traditional Korean house with its old-world furniture. This is the house that she returns to a second time, by herself. And even though what she does is so odd (lying down on the sofa to sleep in the presence of the male houseowner), yet somehow it feels right.

The houseowners (the most loving couple in the film) leave her alone, and that gesture of acceptance and hospitality speaks volumes. In this world where Tae-suk and Sun-hwa are alienated and floating around like ghosts, here is a place that they can return to for rest and refuge. Yet the reality is that it is not their home and they are still trespassing. Everything is still a farce, frighteningly so. When will it all come crashing down?

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9 thoughts on “Homeless in 3-Iron

  1. Hi Non

    3-Iron was my first Kim Ki-duk movie and I watched it a few years ago. Wonder how I’ll feel about it if I watch it again. Have you watched Time? I watched it recently and LOVE Ha Jung-woo in it, but the movie itself is weird. Found it pretty disgusting in places.

  2. Kim Ki Duk’s movies usually have something weird and disgusting, but interesting ! And HJW was one of the reasons I watched Time, of course !

  3. Hi Non

    Have you watched Breath? I’m trying to complete my Ha Jung-woo collection so am looking for the movie. But I wonder if his role here is just a cameo. Since I’m not exactly a fan of Kim Ki-duk, I don’t want to buy the movie and have Ha Jung-woo appear for like a minute only!

  4. A cameo ? I didn’t know that, because he appeared much more an ordinary cameo. That’s ok if you buy it just for your HJW collection, but the movie itself is the most boring KKD one I’ve watched !

    • Oh boy, Breath is dead boring? But still… it has Ha Jung-woo. That means it’s a must-watch. I’ll keep poking around the stores to see if I can find a copy.

  5. Sneaking off from the Dramabeans to check out your site.
    I watched 3-Iron together with my dormmates a couple of years ago. We could not make head or tails of the story but it is very compelling. Imagine finishing the movie with the 5 of us intact and me the only certified k-addict. Alas my DVD of 3-Iron is lost to me. A friend borrowed it and never returned… he still thinks were friends… I think I’ll borrow his cell phone…

  6. this is my first kim ki-duk movie too and is still my favourite one. left me shaken and quite speechless and haunted for days. ghostly is the right word! kim ki duki and jae hee blew me away.

  7. Just watched last night. Everything in the film surprised me. I tried to do some guessing at what would happen next or why he/they were doing something. I was wrong on almost every count.

    Which to me makes an outstanding viewing experience. Can’t say that it was funny, but I was laughing with our hero in appreciation at his small victories, nodding in appreciation of his small kindnesses.

    It is amazing how much JH communicated without speaking.

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