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Kim Ki-duk On Why the Shocking 'Moebius' Is a 'Penis Journey'

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire August 14, 2014 at 10:49AM

Korean provocateur Kim Ki-duk garnered prestige at the 2012 Venice Film Festival when his film "Pieta" was awarded the event's top honor, the Golden Lion. But that doesn't mean he's gone soft. His new film "Moebius" (out Friday in New York and now playing in Los Angeles) opens with a crazed woman castrating and swallowing her son's member. Things only get more extreme from there. Below, the filmmaker talks about the inspiration behind his most provocative project yet.
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Kim Ki-Duk

How personal is "Moebius"?

We are not free from the physical desire for our entire life. And because of it, we either self-torture, maltreat or become maltreated. And in the middle of all this lies our genitals. The question 'what is a genital?' is the initiating point of this film. The film is personal to me in a way, for instance, in the film, the character experiences orgasm by rubbing a rough stone against his skin. During my military service, I had severe athlete's foot and had once rubbed the skin with a stone until it bled. It was painful but at the same time I felt a strange pleasure from it, and just like in the film, I felt an awful pain after it. After that, I realized that our entire body is a sexual organ, and had wished to express the thought in the film.

"...our entire body is a sexual organ." -- Kim Ki-duk

What was your aim in making this movie?

I have made various kinds of films with different messages so far: "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring" that compared human life to the four seasons; the Korean military in "The Coast Guard"; about U.S. and Korea in "Address, Unknown"; a love story in "Dream"; a ghost in "3-Iron," etc. In "Moebius," I wanted it to be about genitals and family. In my line of question of ‘what is a genital...what is family?,' I came to the conclusion that genital is family and wished to express specific connections between them.

READ MORE: Penis Mutilation, Rock Masturbation and More Distinguish Kim Ki-Duk's Crazy 'Moebius'

Does anything shock you?

We're shocked every day. I especially get shocked continuously about people suffering or getting killed by machines and weapons. Even recently, an airplane was crashed down by a missile and a ship sank into the ocean with people confined in it. It is too painful and shocking to think of the people who had slowly died in those moments. And even now, all the conflicts in Israel and Gaza Strip, and in all the numerous accidents, people die in pain. I think about what filmmaking really is and hope that filmmaking would be a meaningful work that can save at least one dying person somewhere.

Moebius

Was it difficult to find actors who were willing to go to the extremes your script demanded of them?

Yes, it was very difficult. Good actors are reluctant to be in my film, afraid that it will damage their image that will result in a lower guarantee or popularity. So I am grateful for those who participate in my films. Although money is important, I believe that, as an actor, it won’t be bad to try a challenging acting to test one's limits. My script expresses extreme characters and stories, but I don't think they are unreal. I wanted to convey a paradoxical message through the extremes.

"I consider 'Moebius' as a penis journey." -- Kim Ki-duk

What was the most difficult scene to shoot?

The most difficult scene to shoot was the last scene where the mother and son have sex in a dream. It’s difficult to film a dreamlike scene without using CGI. So after detaching the lens from the camera, I had to shoot the scene by trying out various ways in terms of focus and refraction by adjusting the distance between the camera and the lens manually. It's not a method that will be used by the conventional cinematographers, but I was satisfied with the result that I had on screen.

Do you see this as a companion piece to "Pieta"?

It could be seen that way, but I completely do not think so. Perhaps there is a similarity that it's about mother and son, but "Pieta" is a question of what a mother is, while "Moebius" is of what a genital is. However, since they both deal with a family and that the mother is central to the story, it could feel that way.

Do you consider yourself a provocateur?

It does not depend on what I think, but it's something that is up to the audiences. I think filmmaking is a work that can unravel secrets that human beings don't all know. So rather than commercial films that cast well-known stars, financed and distributed by major companies, I'm more keen on creating films about the unknown secrets of the human lives. Since my films have been distributed internationally, I didn't have to worry so much about making a living. I believe that it is more meaningful to be curious about and to solve the mysteries of life, rather than the money or honor. And in this aspect, I'm happy to be able to continue this work. Without the audiences in the world who watched my films, I won't exist. And I'm simply gratified. 

Moebius

The film elicited some huge laughs in Toronto. Do you think of the film as a black comedy?

Whereas many foreign audiences laughed in Venice or Toronto or other international film festival, Korean audiences have watched the film looking depressed and painful. It is due to the fact that Korea is not free to express sexual images and the prejudice against expressing sexual organs. I consider "Moebius" as a penis journey.

At this very moment, countless penises are on their journey. And because of that journey, people and their lives are happy, sad, painful, and eventually beautiful. I hope the audiences can laugh by watching the film and to reflect on their own genital journey and their lives.

This article is related to: Kim Ki-duk, Moebius, Moebius, Interviews, Korean