Lee Seung-won’s debut as a director and a writer is an experimental film, quite difficult to watch, for a number of different reasons.
The movie begins in a private academy in the city, where cleaner Sun is reprimanded by her boss for her promiscuous behavior, which includes having sex with a married colleague whose wife just had a child. Instead of flinching though, Sun laughs and is unremorsefully sincere about her conducts, even stating that the baby is ugly and scary and thus, she does not care for it. Equally psychologically unstable is a teacher in the Academy named Mr. Kim, who soon proves to share similar psychological traumas with Sun, although his reaction to them is much different from hers. The two of them strike a very peculiar relationship, just because they are both traumatized by their past, that seems to lack communication or any attachments at all.
Lee Seung-won uses the radical difference in the way the two protagonists cope with their psychological issues to emphasize the magnitude of these problems and the way Korean society ignores or simple stands uncomfortable in front of them. She seeks extremes, mostly of sexual nature, and he, being more introvert, has resorted to calling a complaints hotline, demanding they address meaningless issues, like the fact that the dog of a neighbor watches him when he passes in front him. Their relationship, however, would be utterly non-justifiable if Mr. Kim did not eventually help Sun with her sick sex inclinations, particularly the one of putting various objects in her vagina, in one of the most difficult to watch scenes in the film. Furthermore, as Lee focuses mainly on the hysteria of two highly unlikable characters, he fails to create any empathy towards them, thus creating a detached feeling regarding their relationship and suffering. Another trait of the direction, subtler this time, is the irony occasionally showing in the film, which is exemplified by the title and the ending.
“Communication and Lies” becomes even more difficult to watch, due to the unorthodox narration, which has many back and forths in the timeline, even among flashbacks, the television-sized aspect ratio, the total lack of music, and the very long takes that usually show the face of only one of the two people interacting. At points, it made me think that Lee wanted to depict images resembling the way a sociopath is looking at the world. On the other hand, Ji Seung-woo’s black and white cinematography, created with a handheld camera, fits quite nicely with the general aesthetics of the film.
The film’s best asset is definitely Jang Sun’s performance as Sun, who is great in portraying a detached, sexually driven individual, who lingers between sanity and insanity. The way she constantly laughs, even in the worst of moments, is the most evident exhibit of her psychological status, and this laughter actually becomes a fitting soundtrack for the film. Her role becomes even more difficult considering the scenes of full frontal nudity she has to show, in a tactic that also applies to Kim Kwon-hoo as Mr. Kim. His performance is also good, in a less demanding role, though, since his character is introverted.
“Communication and Lies” is a movie worth watching due to its originality in theme and presentation. However, due to a number of extreme scenes, the confusing narration and the unusual production values is quite hard to watch. Lee Seung-won shows potential, particularly as a scriptwriter, but still has a long way to before he becomes an elaborate filmmaker.
The film is distributed by M-Line Distribution