Saturday, 28 March 2015

REVIEW - HAEMOO (SHIM SUNG BO)


The confines of a small fishing boat translate into the confines of a filmmaker's imagination in Haemoo, a tense drama whose disappointment is so acutely felt because its promise exists alongside it, entirely evident in the film itself. That filmmaker is Shim Sung Bo, though co-writer Bong Joon Ho could, perhaps, share credit for Haemoo's unremarkable simplicity. One wonders what the intentions ever were, to construct a scenario so formally familiar and to treat it as an opportunity to showcase Shim's abilities as a capable hack? Twists on this theme do occur, albeit in short supply, but Shim and Bong only use them to pursue an equally pedestrian route as before toward mediocrity, just from a different perspective. Those twists, some of them effectively the sole moments in Haemoo where emotion is employed to drive the plot, are starkly, austerely presented for the better part, and the finest elements of the film. And it is tense, which human thrillers like this must, by necessity, be. Yet all the promise it shows and promptly wastes: principally, the fishing boat on which most of the film is situated, pokey and cramped, dirty and damp - Shim skimps on atmospherics, preferring bland compositions dominated by flat, saturated jewel tones, and fails to even acknowledge the characteristics of the space he's working with, as a multitude of characters seem to disappear for huge amounts of time on such a small vessel. It's that setting and that premise which are so appealing about Haemoo, and eventually what are also so disappointing. A confined film, in almost every sense of the word.