3-Iron Film Review
Korean director Kim Ki-Duk’s 2004 film 3-Iron revolves around the lives of the two main characters: Tae-Suk, a young homeless Korean man played by Jae Hee and Sun-Hwa the wife of a rich Korean businessman played by Lee Seung-yeon. Kim Ki-Duk’s choice to include little dialogue and disregard the house as an enclosed space makes 3-Iron much more than the typical Asian love drama. Seen as different from the norm, 3-Iron is critically acclaimed among the international community, winning, numerous awards at international film festivals; including the “Little Golden Lion” award at the 2004 Venice Film Festival.
The homeless Tae-Suk has a habit of breaking into houses. He does this by placing menus over the door lock and returns later that day to see if it is still over the lock. If it is, he will pick the lock and stay at the house until the owners return. However, while he is there Tae-Suk does not steal anything; instead he folds and washes clothes and fixes appliances around the house. After breaking into one such house, he encounters Sun-Hwa only to find that she has been beaten by her husband. The two run off together and she joins him as they break into other houses. The romantic subplot between the two evolves without a word being said, something unique to this film.
Kim presents these houses as reflective of various socioeconomic standing to give a broader sense of who Koreans are. He goes to great lengths by filling the houses and rooms with items reminiscent of the owners. In this way, Kim creates a very interesting critique of Koreans of various classes, as well as gender through Tae-Suk and Sun-Hwa’s movement through space. He does this by using Tae-Suk and Sun-Hwa to present a variety of families with different socioeconomic standings and values.
Other characters are developed more than either Tae-Suk or Sun-Hwa with a predominant focus on Sun-Hwa’s husband. Kim’s representation of Sun-Hwa’s husband seems to be the strongest critique of Korean culture. As a successful independent male, it is clear Kim doesn’t have a positive opinion of the hyper-masculine values that Sun-Hwa’s husband embodies. This is shown as Kim makes a conscious effort to portray an abusive husband who has no redeeming qualities. This is hinted at just as much by his physical abuse of Sun-Hwa as is his emotional abuse of Sun-Hwa. This criticism is accentuated by Sun-Hwa’s silence and the photos around the room showing a different Sun-Hwa. When she finally strikes back, marking a change in social values, their relationship changes to give Sun-Hwa more power.
Kim’s decisions as a director makes 3-iron much more than another love drama such as moving the main characters through various spaces and having little dialogue, 3-Iron is just as much a social critique as it is a love drama.