His Home is Not a House

The Korean film “3-Iron” is not for the lazy viewer. It’s one thing to stare; it’s another thing to observe. Not much seems to be happening within the initial minutes of the movie. A young man goes from house to house, taping fliers on doors. He then rides around on his motorcycle and whatnot. Hours or days later, he returns to the neighborhood to scour for fliers still taped to doors. This is how he determines which residence is empty.

Who is this guy? He is a lonely nomad, whose home is not a single house, but a series of vacated abodes. The funny thing is that he doesn’t necessarily steal anything. He just needs a place to crash and leaves the premises as if he wasn’t there.

The plot really gets going when he goes into a house he believes to be vacant. He doesn’t know there’s a battered woman inside. She doesn’t confront him immediately but rather joins us in quietly observing him. Around the 15-minute mark, a funny realization came over me. I think it’s better if I don’t divulge it. It’s something you don’t question when you see the protagonist alone. When you get to the inevitable scene in which he discovers the woman, you’d discover the movie is slyly abiding a technique all along. “Wait a minute, how come he never…”

I was surprised to find “3-Iron” mesmerizing and weird. And when I say weird, I don’t mean freaky. The oddity of the characters fascinated me. “3-Iron” doesn’t explain much of what’s happening, but the story is easy to follow. The slow pacing might trouble some impatient viewers, but the narrative is well-structured. It never feels like it’s running out of ideas. In fact, when it seems the aforementioned technique appears to have been exhausted, filmmaker Kim Ki-duk amazingly takes the film to another level. I don’t know if the creative techniques of the film have been employed before, but I thought the movie is downright original. The story might seem simple, but the way it was told was surely innovative. When “3-Iron” swings, it goes the distance.

Grade: A-

Hee Jae, Hoon Jang, Seung-yeon Lee, and Se-jin Park
Screenplay by
Ki-duk Kim
Directed by
Ki-duk Kim
Rated R for some sexual content