Kim Ki-duk Wins Cannes Prize for “Arirang”

May 23, 2011
*Special to asia!

The South Korean filmmaker’s auteur project topped the Un Certain Regard category, though not all critics were impressed.

A big congratulations to South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk who was awarded the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, together with German film “Stopped on Track”. Kim’s “Arirang” is, in his own words, “about Kim Ki-duk playing 3 roles in 1”. It’s certainly an auteur vehicle, a strictly one-man show, with Kim also responsible for the movie’s screenplay, cinematography, editing and sound. We weren’t at Cannes to catch “Arirang”, but here are the views of some of the critics who did see the film.

The New York Times: "naked, unexpectedly engrossing”

indieWire: Kim’s upfront treatise on his life’s unusual trajectory is alternatively beautiful, frustrating and extraordinarily astute…

Almost exclusively shot in a single room, “Arirang” uses virtually no resources to venture deep into the recesses of Kim’s mind… Kim’s powerfully individualistic work eventually turns into a darkly surreal meditation on the creative process.

Too experimental for much of a release in the U.S., “Arirang” should play well at festivals that have embraced Kim’s films before and will surely be sought out by his fans.

The Film Stage: It’s unfortunate that “Arirang” is immediately disarming and difficult to absorb, as there’s no denying a certain amateur quality to the manner in which the film is presented. It’s the type of thing you’d expect to see from a video blog, which in many ways is what the film is. Ki-duk even says to himself, that he doesn’t care what people think of the film or if they think it’s boring, because it’s something he needed to get off his chest for himself. But “Arirang” is Ki-duk at his most raw and oftentimes the film becomes a chore. In my opinion, the film should be released for free online since it’s the kind that most people would not want to pay for.

The Hollywood Reporter: A one-man production in which Kim engages in deep conversation with himself, his shadow, recorded images of himself and excerpts of his screen performances, it is so navel-gazing it makes Takeshi Kitano’s “Takeshis and Glory to the Filmmaker” seem positively self-effacing.

Never a reliable commercial bet, this will be Kim’s least theatrically saleable work. The sour, malcontent attitude may be his devious way of playing up his bad-boy image to the cine-literati, but there’s precious little with which even an arthouse-inclined audience can identify with.




Kim Ki-duk himself says:


Arirang is

about Kim Ki-duk

playing 3 roles in 1.

Through Arirang I climb over one hill in life.

Through Arirang I understand human beings, thank the nature, and accept my life as it is now.

We are now...

in the terrestrial world lurking with desires,

in the ghostly world lurking with sorrow

in the imaginary world lurking with dreams,

with no beginning nor end,

slowly going crazy.

What is affection that it still remains all around me decaying?

It’s still stuck to the crown of my head, testing my emotions.

It’s still hiding deep within my heart, testing my sense of compassion.

If I didn’t give my heart, they would be bad people erased from memories but if I gave my heart, I couldn’t let them go till the day that I die as despicable people.




Let’s mercilessly kill each other in our hearts till we die.

Even today

I hold back as I get angry

I laugh as I get jealous

I love as I despise

And forgive as I quiver with the urge to kill.


I will kill

Myself, who remembers you.

caddy lee

A former financial and business journalist, Bernice Tang's other areas of interest include China, literature and the arts.