“Ode to the Goose” is novelist-turned into filmmaker Zhang Lu’s latest work. It was presented at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival and was recently shown at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2019.
The movie follows the trajectory of Yoon-young (Park Hae-il) and Song-hyun (Moon So-ri), as the two friends go on a spontaneous trip to Gunsan. The first part of the movie focuses on their trip and encounters with the guest house’s host and daughter and the restaurant owner. The city is pretty ghostly. Everyone is in a transition, it is as if time had stopped.
The second part explores what led the two misfits to the fishing city, especially Yoon-young’s wanderings and encounters.
Alienation is perhaps the main topic of the movie. The estrangement felt by characters is almost tangible. The feeling is enhanced by the almost-dreamy city they end up in. Everyone meets but never really connects. However, they ambiguously long for connection and love.
One of the running themes of the movie is déjà-vus; Yoon-young keeps asking people if he never met them before. The viewers eventually ask themselves the same question (have we seen her/him before?). This recurring question could be seen as an attempt to connect and adds up to the bizarre aura of the character.
Identity and belonging are also at the heart of the movie. The characters don’t belong. Like in many Zhang Lu’s movies, the Chinese-Korean community is under the spotlight, adding another layer to the belonging theme.
“Ode to the Goose” may be a little harder to understand in terms of chronology, but that is actually not what matters here. What matters is that the movie is perfectly written, the characters are very reliable and human, and the shots are beautiful.
Besides well-written characters, the acting is flawless. The (anti)heroes are personified by established actors: Park Hae-il has shown us what he is capable of since “Memories of Murder”, and Moon So-ri’s skills are hardly debatable.
The pace is pretty slow, but that matches the character’s tempo. Most of the shots are wide shots. Natural light is used. It is in line with the filmmaker’s previous work and increase the life-like impression.
In conclusion, “Ode to the Goose” is a good movie to watch, as much for its form as its content.