Newest Reviews
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen
Porky’s II: The Next Day
It Happened Here
Giant from the Unknown
Top of the Bill
Set It Off
No Way Out
Pitch Perfect 3
Insidious: The Last Key
Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, The
Dirty Carnival, A
King of Hearts
And the Same to You
Racer and the Jailbird
Superman and the Mole-Men
Phantom Thread
Sweet Country
Irma La Douce
Brigsby Bear
Wish Upon
Finding Vivian Maier
Shape of Water, The
Lady Bird
Endless, The
Universal Soldier: The Return
Newest Articles
ITC What You Did There: Retro-Action on Blu-ray
And It Was the Dirtiest Harry We Have Seen in a Very Long Time: The Dirty Harry Series
Manor On Movies: The Astounding She Monster
Manor On Movies: Don't be a dolt. That's not a cult (movie)
Wes Anderson's Big Daddies: Steve Zissou and Others
Bad Taste from Outer Space: Galaxy of Terror and Xtro
A Yen for the 1990s: Iron Monkey and Satan Returns
Hey, Punk: Jubilee and Rock 'n' Roll High School
Help! with The Knack: Richard Lester in 1965
Roll Up, Get Yer Free Cinema: The Shorts on the BFI Woodfall Blu-rays
Time for Heroes: The Dam Busters and How I Won the War
Hell is a City: Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver
Boris Goes Bonkers, Bela Goes Bats: The Old Dark House and Mark of the Vampire
Charles Bronson's Mid-70s: Breakheart Pass and Others
Kids in America: The Breakfast Club vs Metropolitan
  Isle, The Something Fishy Going OnBuy this film here.
Year: 2000
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Stars: Jung Suh, Yoosuk Kim, Sung-hee Park, Jae-hyeon Jo, Hang-Seon Jang, Won Seo
Genre: Drama, Sex, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Isle has become notorious for its scenes of fish abuse and self-mutilation, but this South Korean film is no Oldboy – it's a slow, haunting psycho-drama about pain and obsession. Hee-Jin (Jung Suh) is a mute woman whose job is ferrying men to and from a series of floating huts on a huge, picturesque lake in an old motorboat. Most of them are there to fish, and Hee-Jin also provides passage for a pair of local prostitutes who offer company for the men while they wait for their bait to catch. Occupying one platform is Hyun-Shik (Yoosuk Kim), a suicidal ex-cop with whom Hee-Jin is forming a dangerous attachment.

For 45 minutes, nothing much happens. Hee-Jin does her job and watches Hyun-Shik from afar, breaking up the routine by alternatively sleeping with the fishermen or freaking them out by swimming underwater, pulling them into the lake and jabbing them with a blade. Director Ki-duk Kim films beautifully, catching the light as it bounces off the water and the mist as it rolls towards the shore in hypnotic, lulling long shots. The trouble starts when Hee-Jin visits Hyun-Shik and he tries to force himself on her – she flees, and he orders one of the prostitutes instead. Unexpectedly, this girl is genuinely attracted to him, fuelling Hee-Jin's jealous obsession.

Kim never alters the steady pace, but eventually injects some well-timed shocks. Hee-Jin appears suddenly through the trap door in Hyun-Shik's hut as he is fucking the prostitute, a bound-and gagged girl tumbles fatally into the lake, and there's a truly gut-wrenching sequence in which Hyun-Shik swallows a bunch of fish-hooks – then pulls them back up again. The characters of The Isle are unable to verbalise their pain – Hee-Jin is mute, Hyun-Shik barely speaks – and such extreme behaviour seems be a cry for help. Moreover, Kim mirrors their state by unflinchingly showing the killing and mutilation of fish – in one scene a businessman slices sushi meat from a fish and throws the butchered creature back into the water, where it continues to swim, damaged but moving. Such scenes are unpleasant but unlike the animal cruelty in all those Italian cannibal shockers, they do serve some narrative purpose. (It's also the footage that has fallen foul of the British censor, with nearly two minutes excised from British prints).

The infamous scene late in the film where Hee-Jin repeats the fish-hook trick on her genitalia is the moment where her relationship with Hyun-Shik changes, leading to an ambiguous but not entirely unhappy ending. Kim never lets the audience very far into the heads of his characters; a brief flashback reveals an act of murder in Hyun-Shik's past which could equally just be a violent fantasy, while Hee-Jin is a seductive, destructive enigma. The Isle is not always an easy watch, but it is strangely compelling.

Aka: Seom
Reviewer: Daniel Auty


This review has been viewed 4006 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Stately Wayne Manor
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
  Jamie Nichols
Andrew Pragasam
George White


Last Updated: