Im a Cyborg, But That’s OK
Title: Im a Cyborg, But That’s OK
Genre: Romantic, Drama, Comedy
Starring: Su-jeong Lim (A Tale of Two Sisters), Rain
Director: Chan-Wook Park
“Alright, I admit it. Yesterday…I stole Thursday”
One of the things that I always appreciated about this director’s style was his off-beat comedic style, so naturally when I learnt of this films existence it was inevitable that I would eventually watch it. Slotting somewhere between ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Amelie,’ it’s a quirky and utterly insane, but also warm, fuzzy and light-hearted, allowing yourself to simply ‘let go’ of looking for plot coherency in exchange for the charming shared delusions of minds that seem made for one another.
Harbouring her secret, it was at the radio assembly factory that Cha Young-Goon (Lim) worked for that she felt fatigued, carefully cutting a slit in her wrist so as to hardwire herself into the mains and recharge. As you may expect, this quickly landed her in a mental hospital for treatment, and after being given the tour by a resident pathological liar, you quickly realise this film isn’t exactly going to follow modern plot convention. Fearing food will clog up her mechanical body, she takes to getting her nourishment by licking 9V batteries in order to recharge. This soon lands her in intensive care on the brink of starvation, and is given just three days to live. Enter Park Il-Sun – an ex-electrician kleptomaniac who believes he can steal people’s personality traits – and his quest to repair her, and get her to eat once more.
The lead role shows a remarkable departure from her days of horror, performing in a manner that feels like the Korean equivalent to Amelie, particularly in the bittersweet way she licks her battery in order to recharge, pouting like a child when the energy gained is not enough to fulfill her wish of massacring all the doctors or ‘white-uns.’ Rather than display emotions, she tries to purge them to comply with her cyborg programming, and yet despite this she doesn’t become impossible to connect with. Complemented by the Korean pop-star-turned-actor ‘Rain,’ I wouldn’t have made the guess from the manner he performed. Whilst not holding to the standard of the lead, the scenes of him ‘stalking’ his prey, preparing to strike were done creatively and remain a highlight.
But they aren’t the only characters with interesting things to say; from the man who thinks literally everything is his fault and is too polite to walk forwards to images of an overweight woman lying on her stomach fervently rubbing her ‘magic socks’ together lend multiple welcome little deviations to the main story. The choreography demonstrates what he has learnt from his past works, and the use of bright and vivid colours mirrors the far darker tone in his ‘Vengeance Trilogy.’ The film was, however, unfortunately was slow to begin, and certainly a few scenes perhaps felt non-integral to the story and could have been cut to help maintain better coherency.
The end result is not especially deep and thoughtful, and it doesn’t tackle an original subject, but it’s the manner in which he goes about it. Throughout the insanity where little makes sense as you snap in and out of delusional minds, yet the odd relationship that forms between the unlikely heroes of the story feels the only constant. At the heart of this film is a message about accepting the flaws of others, and even learning to love them for those flaws. He’s the technician to her cyborg heart, needing her devotion as much as she needs his compassion for her condition. This is the complete opposite of his past work, and yet still feels distinctly ‘Chan-Wook Park’ in its style. Don’t go in expecting another ‘Oldboy,’ and you’ll find a romantic film that refuses to do things by the book.