Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit viff.org and follow VIFF on Twitter at @viffest.
A protégé of Hong Sang-soo, Lee Kwang-Kuk shares in his master’s whimsy and prose, but lacks severely his charm and depth. Though as lighthearted as a Sang-soo film, Matter of Interpretation does not have the underlying philosophical motive or deep character resonance which makes the former’s films so brilliant. Instead, A Matter of Interpretation is rather childish, despite its obvious sincerity. His whimsy, coupled with a circus-like sex-and-the-city soundtrack is trite and inane, something which Sang-soo would do; however, none of it is charged with his knack for irony and depth. Rather than being facetious, like his master, Kwang-kuk is purely silly.
Told in a completely non-linear structure, with a number of dream sequences bookended by scenes in a theater, A Matter of Interpretation plays with time and imagination to the point of disorienting and possibly losing the audience. Dreams figure centrally in the film, as the two main stories are dream sequences recalled to a detective who, for some reason, has a knack for interpretation. These stories are told by each party of a broken up couple, first the woman, and second the man, with each dream sequence involving much the same objects and ideas, presumably from their past relationship together. The dreams are rather contrived and in no way really resemble what dreams are like, except for the fact that they are illogical. The amount of focus Kwang-Kuk gives objects such as the notorious vehicle in the film is completely irrational yet playful. It makes very little sense, but watching the dreams unfold is a fun ride.
Shot using mostly long takes and presenting a sparse aesthetic design with solid colours, the film’s photography actually resembles that of Hong Sang-soo. To bring about his own personal style, however, Kwangkuk avoids Sang-soo’s whip-zooms, and instead uses an unconventional crane movement which shifts a two-shot side angle into a two-shot profile by moving slowly in an L shape. This move gives Kwang-kuk his own aesthetic character. Besides this feature, Kwang-kuk utilizes a number of slow inward moving zooms to evoke emotional depth. When the camera finally zooms outwards during the one very serious and heavy-hearted scene of the woman crying in front of a fire, it is ever more affective due to its cinematic variation. All of this is to say that Kwang-kuk certainly has some talent and knows how to make a film. So, while A Matter of Interpretation is not a home-run, expect great things in the future from its director.
While A Matter of Interpretation is not a home-run, expect great things in the future from its director.