Festival gem: A Fish

Echoes of The Wicker Man and Twin Peaks resound in this 3D gem from day two of the Festival, in which a man travels to a mysterious Korean island in search of his missing wife.

Samuel Wigley

Pushed to pick a highlight from his selection of Asian films for this year’s Festival, programme advisor Tony Rayns drew special attention to A Fish, a hauntingly mysterious island-set thriller from director Park Hongmin, calling it “a miracle of homemade filmmaking ingenuity and a powerful emotional experience.”

What’s it about?

After hearing that a detective agency has located his missing wife living among shamans on the island of Jindo, a metaphysics professor walks out on his class of students to head south in search of her. Arriving on the island, the professor begins to feel increasingly adrift from reality as he meets a string of oddball characters and witnesses bizarre ritualistic happenings.

Who made it?

Still a student at Dongguk University in South Korea, where he is majoring in directing, Park Hongmin made this debut feature on a tiny budget, innovating his own DIY version of 3D technology.

What’s special about it?

South Korea has been a hotbed of adventurous filmmaking in recent years, and this makeshift 3D indie proves that fresh shoots are still coming through. Set in the beguilingly strange world of shaman ritualism, A Fish is a perplexing riddle of a film that reveals the director’s gift for disconcerting the audience and confounding expectations. Hongmin’s debut has drawn comparisons to everything from The Wicker Man (1973) and Twin Peaks (1990-1) to Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme d’or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2011).

A Fish (2011)

A Fish (2011)

What critics are saying

Kevin B. Lee, indiewire.com:

Its Mulholland Dr-inspired narrative rabbit hole feels more like film student precociousness lacking emotional investment, but the film is remarkable in exploiting the inherently disorienting qualities of 3D to evoke a state of perceptual distortion, further underscored by a distressed stereophonic soundscape.

Kathie Smith, twitchfilm.com:

Park Hongmin’s debut feature, modest as it might seem on the edges, boasts a striking visual presence right from the first frame […] keep your eyes open because things may not be as they seem. […] What emerges from the anarchy of images, stories and themes in A Fish is a patiently delivered riddle that may have more heft in its components than its conclusion. […]  Park Hongmin is in good company with his surreal melting pot that also evokes a little David Lynch in the dark and foggy ambience it creates. A Fish keeps you guessing and engaged until the end.

A Fish is screening in the Thrill strand of the 56th BFI London Film Festival.

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