Editor’s Notes: Moebius is currently out in limited release.
Kim Ki-duk’s latest is a twisted tale of incest with the addition of our natural love of genitalia. It feels weird to say that the most absurd thing about this film is its complete lack of dialogue; not the inclusions of castration, cannibalism, incest, masturbation, voyeurism and rape. Its extremism says a lot about humanity’s condition, though it may be unfair to criticise a film for what it isn’t or doesn’t have, Moebius feels like that strange beast that would benefit with some dialogue. Kim Ki-duk does a fantastic task of having a thematically rich film through silence, but it feels that there is a profundity lurking, ready to be vocalised, instead of being an Oedipal video essay.
Kim Ki-duk does a fantastic task of having a thematically rich film through silence, but it feels that there is a profundity lurking, ready to be vocalised, instead of being an Oedipal video essay.
Discussing the plot is difficult, because the sheer insanity of it seems off-putting. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film, we are aware that the husband is cheating on his wife with another woman as they scramble for his mobile phone. Then, the wife and his son, watch as the husband cheats on the wife in the car. That leads to the son’s arousal and his mum walks in on him masturbating. The mother decides that revenge is the sweetest option, by attacking her husband with a knife to cut off his penis. He succeeds in resisting, so the mother - who demonises all men in this instant - decides that any sleeping penis will do and decides to cut off then eat her son’s as payback for her husband’s infidelity. Again, this is the first fifteen minutes of the film. An extremist start to the gruesome welcome to the world is befitting of the New French Extremism movement.
One of Kim Ki-duk’s most daring - but incredibly effective and interesting choices - is that the mother and mistress are played by the same actress with a few make-up tweaks between characters.
One of Kim Ki-duk’s most daring - but incredibly effective and interesting choices - is that the mother and mistress are played by the same actress with a few make-up tweaks between characters. This really amps up the Oedipal and Freudian themes that are explored through desire, which mostly stems from our genitalia. An interesting quote from the filmmaker about this film is about never being free from “physical desire” and its ramifications, that we are effectively controlled by our genitalia which will lead to “self-torture, maltreat[ment]or becoming maltreated” because of our innate desire for desire. These words show that the filmmaker really has a lot to say. Moebius is visually astounding on this ground, by speaking volumes with character actions, but with an intelligent director clearly pushed by desire himself, could explore themes in immersive detail.
Moebius has great performances from the main trio playing four characters. Kim Ki-duk needed them to express a lot through looks, gazes, angsty screams or even Google searches. Intelligence is found in the moments where the film stops, becoming a tableau to analyse in detail. The film is mostly quiet, which lends itself to stillness as characters sit ashamed or stare at each other, conveying a mixture of complex emotions. Kim Ki-duk also described this as the “penis journey” where one finds that the entire body is capable of the arousal that is linked with genitalia. The sensation of both heavenly climax then followed by pain later on is a physical manifestation of shameful masturbation. That is where Kim Ki-duk’s film is clever, more an art piece to be analysed rather than enjoyed. Some have described it as a black comedy, but it feels far too tragic to be considered entirely as a comedy. Analysing ourselves as walking genitalia ready to upset, be upset or torture ourselves in restraint is a realisation of sad inevitability, telling us a lot about the sexual repression of an entire society, but also the problems of the sexual liberation of western civilisation. Moebius is a complicated film with a lot to say, but no dialogue to verbalise it. Instead, it’s down to the audience to deduce what they see and how they see it. Clever filmmaking from an interesting, intelligent extremist director that really could do more by saying something else further than the Oedipal and Freudian concepts that are now engrained in the zeitgeist.
Moebius is a complicated film with a lot to say, but no dialogue to verbalise it. Instead, it's down to the audience to deduce what they see and how they see it. Clever filmmaking from an interesting, intelligent extremist director that really could do more.