The Isle

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    Directed by:

    Kim Ki-Duk

    A young, mute girl named Hee-Jin (Suh-Jung) is the caretaker of a fishing resort. Her tasks include renting the various floating cottages on the lake as well as taking care of the needs of the costumers from fishing hooks, to booze, to the occasional sexual intercourse. Despite the noisy men renting the cottages, she lives a quiet life, not bothering anyone but also undisturbed by others as well. However, the harmony at the resort is disrupted with the arrival of Hyun-shik (Kim Yu-Seok), a man who has killed his wife and seeks refuge in one of the cottages. Out of curiosity, Hee-jin attempts to find out more about this strange newcomer who she finds crying in his cottage once and who seemingly has no interest in fishing as well as the company of the other men. She also works as a part-time prostitute serving the violent, loutish fishermen, who treat women shabbily.


    • Suh-Jung as Hee-Jin
    • Kim Yu-Seok as Hyun-Shik
    • Cho Jae-Hyun as Mang-Chee

    Critical Response:

    Like most of the director Kim Ki-duk's films, The Isle wasn't well received in his native country. However, the film and its controversial elements caused some stir in the film festivals it appeared in, causing it to be picked up by others in the process. The film was one of the first Korean films to be presented in the competition category of the Venice Film Festival, following Im Kwon-taek's Surrogate Woman, and Jang Sun-woo's Lies.

    The Isle currently holds a 61/100 on Metacritic, and Rotten Tomatoes reports 76% of reviewers as positive; according to the latter aggregator, the critics' consensus is: "A compelling and oddly haunting combination of brutal and beautiful imagery." During its initial screenings, the film gained notoriety through reports of people vomiting or passing out during the viewing. The film was eventually awarded a NETPAC special mention in the festival. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert, having seen the film at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, praised the film for its cinematography, while commenting "This is the most gruesome and quease-inducing film you are likely to have seen. You may not even want to read the descriptions in this review."

    The festival success of The Isle eventually led to the film getting wider releases in many countries, even though it was seemingly more suited for an art house crowd.