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Joe Odagiri, Dream     Lee Na-Young, Dream

Joe Odagiri and Lee Na-Young share a special connection in Kim Ki-Duk's Dream.
  Korean: 비몽
Year: 2008  
Director: Kim Ki-Duk  

Kim Ki-Duk

  Cast: Joe Odagiri, Lee Na-Young, Zia, Kim Tae-Hyeon, Jang Mi-Hie
  The Skinny:

A blackly funny, openly metaphorical, and oddly touching look at two individuals who share a strange and fantastic connection. Like most Kim Ki-Duk films, Dream is an acquired taste, but the emotions and actors carry this one through.

by Kozo:
With his last film Breath, Kim Ki-Duk went Pan-Asian, pairing Taiwanese actor Chang Chen with South Korean actress Zia. The latter returns in Kim's latest film Dream, but she's relegated to a supporting role behind another Pan-Asian pairing: Japan's Joe Odagiri and South Korea's Lee Na-Young. In Breath, the language barrier was handled by making Chang Chen's character mute, but in Dream; both Odagiri and Lee's characters are in full command of their vocal cords. Instead of resorting to ADR dubbing or some other form of manufactured language concession, Kim has both speak their natural language and lets the audience pick up the pieces. Suspension of disbelief seems unlikely.

However, any issues with chicken-and-duck talk donít seem to matter. The characters trade languages without skipping a beat, and the incongruity is surprisingly acceptable. This is partly due to the actors; Joe Odagiri is one of Japan's most versatile and able performers, and Lee Na-Young has acting chops that belie her exceptional looks. The film's situation is offbeat and fantastic anyway, so the multiple languages only add to the surreal atmosphere. Dream is an unusual love story that takes its time and does its own thing. Not all audiences will enjoy the ride, but the one that Dream offers proves to be unique and worthwhile.

Wood craftsman Jin (Joe Odagiri) is nursing a broken heart, and works long hours alone, frequently nodding off at his workbench. One night he dreams of a car accident, but the details are too real to be just fantasy. The police discover that the accident really happened, but the offending driver was not Jin. Instead it was Ran (Lee Na-Young), a seamstress who claims to have no recall of ever being in the accident. It turns out she was sleepwalking while driving the car, her body enacting the scenario dreamt up by Jin's unconscious mind. That incident is only the beginning; the two are now linked, their reality and dreams crossing over. Soon, Jin's dreams start to become increasingly elaborate, with Ran carrying out each one nightly.

Jin dreams of visiting a strange man (Kim Tae-Hyeon), who turns out to be Ran's ex-lover, whom she despises. At first, Jin only dreams of visiting his home, but before long the situations become intimate and possibly dangerous. Ran wants a solution before her sleepwalking self does something she cannot undo, but keeping awake isn't always possible. A dream specialist suggests that their romantic issues - Jin's heartbreak and Ran's stubborn lack of forgiveness - have somehow connected their hearts. An "obvious" solution is proposed to cure their problem - why don't the two fall in love with each other? That's not what either had in mind, but the time they spend struggling to stay awake brings them closer together, the dream specialist's solution slowly becoming something they may desire.

Dream naturally possesses some black comic laughs, as Jin and Ran's situation is categorically ridiculous. However, Kim Ki-Duk gives this fantastic plot device an observed and almost mundane focus, revealing their predicament in matter-of-fact, immersive fashion. Each night, Jin nods off and Ran rises from her sleep, stiffly acting out his dreams with uncertain, funny, suspenseful and even tragic consequences. The whole thing is played straight and not for comedy, and it ultimately becomes natural to become involved with the characters and their unique problem. The situation creates a simple but compelling tension, where the audience wants the two to find a solution to their little sleeping problem before things go too far. However, the solutions are sometimes disturbing (Kim Ki-Duk's preoccupation with character self-mutilation makes a return) and mutual love may not be enough to prevent a terrible outcome.

Still, by the time everything's resolved, the characters have earned sympathy and identification such that their fate is something the audience can understand and even find comfort in. Dream can be enjoyed on multiple levels; as a narrative, the film is unusual but complete in its development, and reaches an appropriate, affecting conclusion. More can be gleamed if a viewer chooses to look beyond the narrative. Kim taps into very common and acute themes - love, heartbreak, powerlessness, self-loathing - mining them for images and connections that find emotional resonance. The experience isn't for everyone (seeing Joe Odagiri stab his skull with needles to stay awake is likely not everyone's cup of tea) and some details are needlessly metaphorical, but the emotions elicited are strong ones. Like most Kim Ki-Duk films, Dream is an acquired taste, but those willing to accept his unusual ideas and sometimes twisted emotions should find it satisfying and even rewarding. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, 2008)

  Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Premier Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean and Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English subtitles
Various extras
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