Following Carl England’s review of the film – which you can find here – Daniel has also been off to see Breath. Here’s his take…
Yeon (Zia) is a sculptress whose life, bluntly put, sucks. Her husband (Jung Woo-ha) is involved in an ongoing affair and her life consists of ironing clothes and keeping to her stiflingly immaculate modern home in Seoul – aside from the presence of her young daughter, she has little joy in her life.
Then she sees Jang Jin (Chang Chen, most recognisable from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) on the news following his second suicide attempt in so many months, and decides to meet him on impulse, seemingly having found a kindred spirit of sorts. Jang Jin is a murderer awaiting execution.
Kim Ki-duk’s latest film is a dream-like romantic drama that asks no easy questions: it talks of relationships and their numerous imperfections, of souls and soul mates, of the fickleness of mortality. Notorious once for violent films such as Bad Guy and The Isle, Breath is a world away from the predictability of the Tartan Asia Extreme crowd, and is more concerned with pleasing itself than appealing to a wide audience. That’s not a criticism, just an acknowledgement of its serene and occasionally bewildering tone – for a film where the main character is a criminal, Ki-duk helps us understand that the crime is probably the least important thing about Jang Jin, instead focusing on the eccentric romance that springs between him and Yeon.
Breath at times threatens to wander off its own path, pleased a little too much with itself in its depictions of trust and Korean suburbia, but Ki-duk always finds a way to rein in his indulges with a humanist touch (Woo-ha’s character is a mere bastard at first but, of course, things are not in black and white).
Ultimately, the patience required by the audience at the film’s beginning pays back tenfold with a beautifully melancholy ending set in the snow that is nothing less than perfect. Breath creeps up on you like the winter it is set against, and by its end, you will have most likely fallen under its spell.