out of Five
Running time: 100
Kim Ki-duk’s self-made documentary about his three year, guilt induced solitude is incredibly self-absorbed, making it a suffocating and arduous watch.
What’s it all about?
South Korean director Kim Ki-duk writes, directs, edits and independently stars in Arirang, a self-portrait style documentary about the 51 year old filmmaker’s spiral into deep depression. Wracked with guilt and anxiety over an incident that happened in 2008, in which an actress almost died during the production of his last feature film, Dreams, Ki-duk lives in a shack on an undisclosed hillside, alone but for his cat and his demons.
Arirang documents the successful director’s secluded daily routines – cooking, eating, drinking heavily and singing old Korean folk ballads – as he openly addresses his demons to the camera, asking himself critical questions about his successful career and personal thoughts. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Arirang is the title of a Korean drinking song about self-realisation, which is frequently sung in this documentary by Ki-duk.
Arirang is testing on the patience with Ki-duk’s temperamental moods often wearing very thin – at times he’s peaceful and other times he’s angry; at the very worst of times, he’s emotional, drunk and bawling the title song at full volume, which is painful on the ears to say the least.
In terms of entertainment factor, this film is incredibly dull and arduous to watch (we needlessly look on as Ki-duk brushes his teeth, washes his face, ties his hair back and feasts on assorted foods), and unless there’s an underlying interest in this director, audiences will be quickly bored to tears. The extreme close-up shots of Ki-duk’s conversations with himself in his tent are also incredibly overbearing and claustrophobic.
However, the worst thing about this one man show is Ki-duk’s self-absorption, which he tries to mask with his ‘guilt’ over an actress almost dying on one of his sets. However, in this documentary, he spends more time complaining about not winning any major awards as he does over this subject and he doesn’t so much as talk about his fifteen feature films as marvel over them. The finale also offers little reward for its persevering audience.
Arirang is an incredibly self-absorbed documentary, low on impact and onerous to watch. Unless you’re an ardent fan of Kim Ki-duk, this is one to avoid.