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


  1. 1minutefilmreview says

    Loved it, but definitely not Kim best though.

  2. Beverly says

    I thought of Murakami when I read the film’s description! It seemed very much in the same vein… I’m sad I missed it on the big screen!

  3. Wil says

    Kim Ki Duk is one of my favourite working film directors, with The Bow and Samaritan Girl being my two preferred of his past films. Both are definitely worth checking out if you have not seen them. Of course Spring Summer Autumn Winter & Spring and 3 Iron are better known but I think his combination of violence, beauty and Buddhism were best realised on The Bow and Samritan Girl.

    1. Márcio says

      I would also add “The Isle” and “Coast Guard” as two of his movies that carry more punch. They are not easy to watch but are deffenetly worth the effort.

  4. Márcio says

    Kim Ki-duk can’t do no wrong, I love his movies. Can’t wait to see it.

  5. Simon H. says

    It has been one of my fest faves so far, and actually, I haven’t seen too many Ki-duk films as of yet. See it before you can register any disappointment…you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

    1. Madeleine says

      You should see 3-Iron if you haven’t! It’s definitely got that sense of defying reality, but it’s so subtle and pretty, and plays with silence in a really inventive way. I’ll watch Dream ASAP then.

  6. Madeleine says

    Aw, this disappoints me, since Kim Ki-duk has made some really gorgeous and amazing stuff in the past. I’m sensing a lot of that is still there from your review, yet maybe not of the same caliber as earlier works. I’ll see it whenever I get the chance.

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