By Sascha Krieger
Domangchin yeoja (Competition / Republic of Korea / Director: Hong Sangsoo)
Three conversations with three women. That’s all Hong Sangsoo’s latest film is. The connecting element is a young woman visiting or happening to bump into old friends. For the first time, she’s away from her husband. They had never been apart before, he thinks it’s natural. Three times she tells this, every time is pretty much exactly the same words. Yet all we see is female bonding, sometimes awkward, often quietly understanding. Men are intruders, threats, side notes. As always in Hong’s films, he accentuates cinematic means: Zooming in, turns to the same motif as a connector between scenes, unmotivated soppy music, slightly distorted, as if played via a tape deck or radio. This creates distance and sometimes comic relief, always tinged with seriousness as in the scene a neighbor comes to compain about stray cats being fed – a masterpiece of hyper polite passive aggressiveness in which the woman stands her ground almost apparently timidly and the final say belongs to a rather confident cat. Humour is a weapon where others aren’t accepted. The film highlights the women’s independence as well as their socially demanded dependance on their male „companions“, the first woman visited has given up for good and the second ridicules quite brutally. As they straddle the fine line between emancipation and social expectation, the film keeps emphasizing its artificiality. The reality it’s clean though somewhat impersonally rigid imaged capture is fragile, almost illusory. And yet, it cannot be denied. In the end, the mountain gives way to the sea as a visual leitmotif, endless boundlessness instead of something to be overcome. Another quietly symbol to be missed at your own peril. Just like this entire beautiful film.