Dir/scr: Shin Yeon-shick. South Korea. 2014. 115mins
Visually arresting, Shin Yeon-shick’s The Avian Kind is a beautifully captured feature bearing many of the hallmarks that made the also literary The Russian Novel (2012) such a thought provoking film, but viewers are likely to find the film’s perplexing narrative of a man searching for his wife who discovers she has transformed into something different entirely somewhat difficult to fully grasp.
Aesthetically the film is a triumph and while it’s challenging to fully comprehend where the narrative is going, the film’s cinematography so eloquently composed by Choi Young-jin masterfully embraces and reflects the film’s artistic and nuanced tone.
Premiering at the Jeonju International Film Festival as one of the festival’s three Jeonju Digital Projects, which this year was extended into feature length productions, the film should find a home on the festival circuit, but theatrical exposure elsewhere will be limited due to its abstract nature.
The film follows a struggling novelist, Jeong-suk (Kim Jeong-suk) who having spent many years trying to locate his missing wife is approached by a management executive called Alice Kim (Soy Kim) who offers to help. They then begin together a journey searching for the missing wife, while the narrative, meanwhile, also flashes back to 15 years before revealing what happened to his wife (Jung Han-bi) and a teenager (Lee Yoo-mi) she bonds with who both seek to be transformed into the avian kind.
Perhaps providing the quintessential example of JIFF’s focus on independent and alternative cinema, Shin’s new film appears to expand on his dream-like existential themes in The Russian Novel as the narrative delves into realms largely otherwise unexplored in current Korean cinema focusing on these bizarre chain of events that to some will be difficult to digest, but for others provides a fascinating passage of thought.
Aesthetically the film is a triumph and while it’s challenging to fully comprehend where the narrative is going, the film’s cinematography so eloquently composed by Choi Young-jin masterfully embraces and reflects the film’s artistic and nuanced tone through his choice of filming and placing of the camera in Korea’s rural landscape, which is further complemented by a wonderfully atmospheric score supervised by talented music composer Mowg.
Kim Jeong-suk (The Russian Novel) who plays the novelist gives an understated and carefully calculated performance conveying the anguished writer as he searches for his wife while the remaining cast including Soy Kim (2007’s Cadaver) are equally as impressive.
Although for some, The Avian Kind won’t be as appealing as Shin’s last film, the more commercial Rough Play (2013) starring K-pop star Lee Joon and written and produced by the eccentric auteur Kim Ki-duk, there is much to admire about Shin’s latest feature, which is bound to stand the test of time.
Production company: Luz Y Sonidos
International Sales: Jeonju International Film Festival, http://eng.jiff.or.kr
Producer: Kim Ji-hyoung
Screenplay: Shin Yeon-shick
Cinematography: Choi Young-jin
Editor: Kim Jeong-hoon
Main Cast: Kim Jeong-suk, Kim Soy, Jung Han-bi. Lee Yoo-mi