Thursday, August 13, 2015
MIFF Session #11: HILL OF FREEDOM
Mori doesn't speak Korean and the Koreans he meets don't speak Japanese. The dialogue is almost entirely in the third language of English. This means that not only does Mori face commicating with a lack of precision but the Koreans have to speak like tourists in their home town. Even when the conversation is warm or intimate it must pass through this filter. No one is saying quite what they mean and, even if their English is fluent, what they say is constantly compromised.
Just as he did with information deficit in last year's wonderful Our Sun Hi, Sang-Soo Hong plays with the fullness and clarity of meaning in the speech of his conversants. A subtle warning might emerge as a pleasantry, a compliment patronising. Through all of this the characters work on saying what they mean but the cheaper shot of farcical misunderstanding is not on the menu.
Instead, we get a deceptively gentle meditation on the constant problems of communication which scrubs up beautifully as comedy. It's easy to lose sight of Mori's trouble with love but that is the thing that informs almost every frame. Hong continues his great trust in his actors by keeping most of the scenes single shots and the focal length medium and the angle a profile while never feeling stagey.
This was shown with the Claire Denis short Voila l'enchainement which also used static close shots to describe a couple's disintegration in dialogue and monologue. It made its point and continued to do so, growing weighty and oppressive very quickly. Its thirty minutes on screen felt like Hill of Freedom's sixty-six and the reverse is damningly as true. Long live Sang-Soo Hong!