Fantasia 2009 – ‘Dream’

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Directed by Kim Ki-duk

Jin (Jo Odagiri) has a dream, and the dream has Ran (Lee Na-yeong). Confused? Jin dreams a car accident, in which he injures a bystander, checks to make sure they’re alive, and then drives off. He wakes up from the dream to discover that Ran, a woman he does not know, carried out the accident in reality as he slept. Police cameras capture Ran in the act, but she claims to have been asleep at home as it happened. Jin goes to the police to plead her innocence, as he considers himself “responsible” for dreaming up the incident.

That’s the setup for Kim Ki-duk’s hypnotic exploration of fate, relationships and control, Dream, a film so single-minded in its drive and purpose that it seems predestined to be a less-than-fulfilling experience once it finally does end. Much like the titular experience, Dream doesn’t so much offer answers to the bizarre and tragic predicament its leads find themselves so much as spend its time ensconced in their peculiar emotional reality. Sure, we do get an explanation for Jin and Ran’s seemingly random connection, but it hardly explains the supernatural elements of Ki-duk’s unique screenplay, which recalls the work of novelist Haruki Murakami in the way it renders the fantastic both mundane and poignant.

In its final moments, Dream does unravel somewhat, partially thanks to some unwelcome CGI, but Odagiri (who was also great in last year’s Adrift in Toyko) and Na-yeong are just right as strangers bound by a strange fate neither asked for. Dream will irritate many viewers with its rigid pacing and questionable narrative logic, but like a particularly resonant image from, well, a dream, it has a way of sticking with you.

Simon Howell


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