EmptyPusan International Film Festival
BUSAN, South Korea -- "Written" is a film about cinema as much as it is about style. Copping little bits of "Saw," "Fight Club" and any number of recent films that explore identity and reality as seen through the filter of art, the film is a derivative treat -- and test -- for the eyes.
Genre, digital and Asian festivals are going to be drawn to "Written," but its esoteric tone, heavily metaphoric story and dead seriousness will lead to minor boxoffice success at best, though an art house release isn't entirely out of the question.
Describing the plot of "Written" could potentially go on for pages. In short, a man, identified only as A (Lee Jin-Seok), wakes up in a bathtub with a gash in his side and a missing kidney. Some cursory investigating leads him to the discovery that he is not in fact a person, but a character in someone else's written manuscript. At the same time that A tries to work out his life, a film crew is shooting the script and discussing the direction of the story: Will A live or die? The Actor (Lee Sang-Hyuk) plays both A and A's adversary, the question being, which one is real. Also factoring into the story is the Woman (Kim Bo-Young), the author of the incomplete script who muddies the waters even more. Ultimately, all of them have the same goal in mind: finding out how the story ends.
Multitasker Kim Byung-Woo and cinematographer Kim Ji-Hoon have put together a visually stunning film, even when it borders on pretentiousness and flirts with vacancy. The hallucinatory, fever dream style, rapid-fire editing and saturated color come together seamlessly in some truly vivid images (and often distract from the shallowness of the story). Combining those is suitably gritty production design by Choi Su-Hyun. Choi's bathroom set rates just above the one in "Trainspotting" for skankiness and the interlinking hallways of the building the characters occupy are appropriately disorienting.
Explorations of the blurring of fantasy and reality and someone's place within that equation have been seen before -- in everything from "Stranger Than Fiction" to "The Truman Show" -- as has this kind of shaky-cam aesthetic. "Written" doesn't blaze any new trails, but its tight running time and beautifully overlapping coda, where the narrative strands come together, is, at the very least, satisfying. And director Kim ("Anamorphic") has marked himself as a visualist to watch.
A Kim Byung-Woo production
Director-screenwriter: Kim Byung-Woo
Producer: Kim Byung-Woo
Director of photography: Kim Ji-Hoon
Production designer: Choi Su-Hyun
Editor: Kim Byung-Woo
A: Lee Jin-Seok
The Woman: Kim Bo-Young
The Actor: Lee Sang-Hyuk
Running time -- 89 minutes
No MPAA rating