Fore! Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk stays mostly out of the rough in 3-Iron, his latest assault (Violence! Burglary! Golf Balls!) on arthouse audiences who ought to remember his name after sitting through the fish-hook-munching horror of The Isle or misogynous red-light romance Bad Guy.

Anyone who thought Kim had gone soft after watching his ravishing Buddhist ode Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... And Spring should approach this with caution: he's still got what it takes to shock (you can take the Buddhist out of the gutter, etc) as scenes featuring assault with a deadly golf club prove. Yet, despite the uncomfortable flashes of golfing violence, 3-Iron is actually a surprisingly tender love story.

Released in Korea as Bin-Jip, literally "Empty Houses", - it's a meditation on urban loneliness, with delivery boy Tae-suk sneaking into people's houses while they're out. He doesn't steal anything, just raids their fridges, does their laundry and rearranges a few of their personal possessions. It's a ghostly game he also teaches to battered wife Sun-hwa after rescuing her from a life of miserable domestic abuse.

Silence is always golden in Ki-duk's world. Both characters here are dumb - speechless, not stupid - their lives ruled by emotions they can't put into words. In contrast, everyone else in the movie, from Sun-hwa's vicious husband to various bullying coppers, talk... but they don't have anything to say. Starting out as low-key drama then morphing into a haunting fantasy that could just be a needy daydream in the mind of its damaged heroine, 3-Iron's meaning slips in and out of reach. Is it nonsensical mumbo jumbo or haunting mood poem? Golfers will know that the 3-iron is a difficult club to get to grips with: the beauty of Ki-duk's pop arthouse cinema is that it's always accessible, even when its meaning is elusive.


Lighter than some of Ki-duk's earlier films, this love story doesn't make much sense, but it's hard to forget. Frustration looks almost enchanting.

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User Reviews

    • FBEXanthopoul

      Jan 21st 2012, 16:46

      4, by George Koukoumtzis Whoever sees cinema as a place that sells popcorn, crisps and Doritos, or the place that makes an excessive consumption of soda acceptable may have missed out on this Korean masterpiece — a truly astonishing experience. A quiet young man who squats in other people’s houses, and an abused young wife, meet and become connected. The couple find themselves violently torn apart and struggle to get back together, fighting for the opportunity to stay together for good. But what is real and what is imaginary? The true power of this film lies in its simplicity. Static and precise camera shots, almost non-existent dialogue. A movie that refuses to obey rules and genres, a romantically rebellious film which deals with the solitude and alienation of the big city, while proving to be rich in humanist ideals and emotion. Each viewer will most likely experience his own catharsis and decide on his own interpretation of this subtly and silently brilliant film. Art is open to unlimited interpretations as it represents each individual soul and voice within. This might be why dialogue is often unnecessary and some films offer more when the meanings are left up to the actors’ facial expressions and body language, when the visual speaks directly to our minds and hearts. Truly free and completely in love, 3-Iron’s viewers are left feeling that love can truly defeat gravity. After my first viewing of 3-Iron, I felt like running to South Korea, finding the director, Kim Ki Duk and thanking him from the bottom of my heart for the cinematic experience he’d made possible. The media might have him down as an obscure or strangely romantic writer-director, but I really identified with his need for emotion, love and companionship. As he, himself has effectively put it: “We are all a bunch of empty houses. And we’re waiting for someone to come and open our doors and give us life”. George Koukoumtzis at

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